USFK denies protests caused withdrawal
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. military officials in South Korea are disputing local media reports that suggest “Korean mistakes” led to a U.S. proposal to remove 12,500 troops from the peninsula by the end of next year.
The South Korean reports were centered on speculation that South Korea in some way had angered the Bush administration, and that the reduction proposal was not made in conjunction with local officials.
“Apparently,” the JoongAng Daily wrote in an editorial over the weekend, “Korean anti-American demonstrations triggered the troop removal.”
The editorial was headlined “Troop pullout: We asked for it.”
In a Tuesday news release, U.S. Forces Korea officials strongly disputed the reasoning.
“These allegations are not true and contradict the overwhelming record, both here and in the United States, that careful consideration, consultation and discussion have been ongoing between our countries for more than a year,” read a statement attributed to Col. MaryAnn Cummings, USFK spokeswoman.
“Decisions made in the ROK-U.S. alliance are not based upon emotion or sudden reaction.”
The U.S. proposal surfaced in early June, although U.S. officials first broached it in summer 2003. Under the plan, about one-third of the U.S. troops on the peninsula would be removed, including the 3,600 2nd Infantry Division troops recently sent to Iraq for a one-year deployment.
In negotiations last week, South Korean officials asked for the cuts to be delayed by at least one year.
Both the JoongAng editorial and another published in the Dong-A Ilbo repeated a “theory” making the rounds recently in Seoul claiming the final decision to announce the troop pullout came after a video clip on a U.S. news station.
“One of the reasons that prompted reductions in U.S. forces in Korea was news footage from the U.S.’s NBC broadcasting company showing a GI bleeding from a stone thrown by a student activist in Seoul,” the Dong-A editorial read. “An infuriated Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, ordered ‘Pull them out’ after seeing that.”
“Practically speaking, Rumsfeld did not decide on troop reductions solely influenced by news footage,” the editorial continued. But “it is logical to hold that such anti-American currents have preconditioned Rumsfeld’s decision.”
While saying they were unaware of “whether the anecdote related in the original news story about an NBC news clip contained shreds of truth,” U.S. military officials dismissed the editorials.
“One thing I do know is that a decision of this importance and complexity would not be made based on a five-second video clip,” Cummings said, according to the release. “That kind of cause-and-effect relationship makes no sense.”