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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. and South Korean officials are slated to meet Thursday in Washington, D.C., to try to reach final agreement on moving the U.S. military headquarters out of Seoul by 2007.

The two sides are to hold the 10th round of the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative (FOTA) talks on Thursday and Friday. The last round, held in Seoul last month, ended without an agreement and with U.S. officials expressing “frustration” at the lack of progress.

At issue is the amount of land granted for an expanded military hub in the Pyongtaek area. During the last FOTA talks, the sides’ final proposals reportedly differed by about 300 acres.

In an interview afterward, the head of the U.S. negotiating team said he was disappointed a relatively small number would hold up the entire process. Following those comments, South Korea’s foreign minister set the 10th round of talks as the deadline to finalize the Yongsan Garrison relocation.

The two sides have an umbrella agreement to move Yongsan by 2007 and consolidate and move 2nd Infantry Division bases over the next several years; a final agreement must be ratified by South Korea’s National Assembly.

Earlier this week, South Korean media, citing unnamed government officials, said the South Koreans were prepared in this week’s meetings to increase their government’s offer for land allotments in the Pyongtaek area. Those reports could not be confirmed.

Another stumbling block has been the cost of moving U.S. troops. Under previous agreements, the South Korean government is to bear the full burden of those costs; earlier this year, the Koreans estimated the Yongsan moving costs at $3 billion to $4 billion.

Negotiators from both sides also are under pressure to finalize troop relocation plans before tackling an even thornier issue: the proposed reduction of the U.S. presence in South Korea by 12,500 troops.

U.S. officials have proposed to complete that reduction by the end of 2005, but the South Koreans have reportedly asked for a longer time line. The proposal came shortly after the United States announced it was sending 3,600 2nd Infantry Division troops directly from South Korea to Iraq. Those troops, from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, would be included in the 12,500-troop reduction, officials have said.


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