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SEOUL — U.S. Forces Korea instituted a curfew from 7:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. for all servicemembers on the peninsula beginning Thursday night, Army officials confirmed.

“Given the world situation and the emerging operations ... we felt it was prudent to increase the curfew to present a smaller visible presence,” Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, 8th Army spokesman told Stripes.

Boylan declined to say if “emerging operations” meant the potential war in Iraq, but did say that “Iraq is, of course, one of the elements.”

The curfew affects all servicemembers in Korea, including those here on temporary duty. Troops who live off base are allowed to travel to and from their place of residence but aren’t allowed to make stops along the way during the curfew hours.

Boylan said the curfew is in effect “until further notice,” and it’s being advertised through the commander’s access channels, American Forces Radio and Television, the chain-of-command and command publications.

The new curfew is an extension of the existing curfew, which has been in place since shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Boylan said troops who break the curfew will be in violation of a general order and will be turned over to their commands for possible punishment.

Boylan declined to comment on whether USFK would increase its force protection level Thursday.

“We won’t confirm specific increases or decreases in force protection levels ... as a matter of policy,” Boylan said. “We are taking all prudent actions to ensure safety of personnel, family members and installations.”

On Wednesday, a day after President Bush gave a 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, the Korean National Police instructed its police stations across the peninsula to be on the lookout for potential terrorist activities.

The KNP said it is increasing its staffing and patrols at U.S. bases and foreign embassies and said explosive ordnance detection teams will inspect unidentified “vulnerable” areas on a regular basis.

South Korea also is ensuring security checks will be conducted on everyone entering and departing the country, and security will be increased in coastal waters, at airports and ports.

If America does attack Iraq, the KNP will host an “Iraqi war-related countermeasures meeting” to focus on a comprehensive public safety program and a special office will be created in the KNP agency, according to the KNP’s Web site.

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