YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — USFK and South Korea are discussing their alliance, but no decisions have been made, a U.S. Forces Korea spokesman said Tuesday.

A front-page story in Tuesday’s Chosun Ilbo — Korea’s largest-circulation national newspaper — quoted an unnamed USFK official as saying a reduction of 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers is being considered. About 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

“We have begun discussions on the future of the alliance but no decisions have been made,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Caldwell, deputy USFK public affairs officer.

According to the newspaper report, the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, stationed north of Seoul, will go from two brigades to one brigade after the cut.

The report also said the remaining brigade will move somewhere further south of Seoul, possibly near Osan or Pyongtaek, home to U.S. military bases. Other portions of the 8th Army would be transferred out of South Korea, it said.

Typically, U.S. divisions have three brigades. However, one of the 2nd Infantry Division’s brigades already is at Fort Lewis, Wash. The division — still one of the Army’s beefiest as far as armor and artillery — has about 14,000 soldiers.

The topic of the U.S.-South Korean alliance — and a possible drawdown — has been debated hotly.

Richard Lawless, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, met with Lt. Gen. Cha Young-koo, South Korea’s deputy defense minister for policy, Feb. 27.

A Korean Defense Ministry news release said Lawless and Cha agreed to short- and mid-term plans on the South Korean-U.S. force structure.

They did not elaborate whether those plans included withdrawing U.S. troops from the peninsula.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress in February he wanted to move U.S. forces away from the Demilitarized Zone. The U.S. military has said it’s studying its deployment of servicemembers in South Korea.

In December, the United States and South Korea agreed on the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative, which includes studies of security posture on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s nuclear program.

Also under way are discussions to move facilities at Yongsan Garrison, home to the U.N. Command, U.S. Forces Korea, 8th Army and the Combined Forces Command. U.S. officials have said they’re willing to move when South Korea — bound by its defense treaty with the U.S.— provides adequate replacement facilities.

The last major realignment of U.S. forces in South Korea was completed in 1971. At that time, 18,000 soldiers were pulled out; the majority were from the 7th Infantry Division, which was inactivated in April 1971, according to information published on 8th Army’s Web site.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who promised during his 1976 campaign to withdraw troops from South Korea, abandoned the plan after congressional opposition. President Ronald Reagan cancelled any withdrawal.

In 1989, Congress adopted the Nunn-Warner amendment to the defense appropriation bill, which reduced forces from about 43,000 servicemembers to around 36,000, according to 8th Army.

The amendment contained a three-phase withdrawal plan, but no specific end troop level was set.

The next two phases “have yet to be negotiated or implemented because of North Korea’s refusal to allow intrusive inspection of its alleged nuclear weapons development facilities at Yongbyon.”

The 8th Army also writes that North Korea refuses to participate in inspecting the other military facilities even though the United States and South Korea have “publicly stated” all installations are open for a look.

— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.

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