In a totally unsurprisng move that has been foreshadowed by both public and off-the-record comments for months the Bush Administration announced that US forces will withdraw from proximity with the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.
According to the statement released in Seoul, U.S. troops will first move from about 15 bases near the DMZ to two major bases, Camp Casey and Camp Red Cloud, north of Seoul. In a second phase, the troops will move to "key hubs south of the Han River," which bisects Seoul, the statement said.
The US will be spending big money to strengthen the defenses of South Korea.
Meanwhile, Washington has pledged to invest $11 billion over four years to bolster South Korean defenses - including upgrades to Patriot antimissile systems, a squadron of AH-64D Apache helicopters, and other capabilities aimed at better countering North Korean missile and artillery attacks. Other enhancements include high-speed vessels that can more rapidly ferry Marines from Okinawa to the peninsula and the planned rotation to South Korea of the Army's newest force - the wheeled, medium-armored Stryker brigade.
What is not clear from the various reports is whether the US will buy equipment for the South Korean military to own or if it will just buy equipment for the US military to operate in South Korea. Surely the South Koreans can afford to defend their own country and ought to increase their defense spending to be better able to do so. Hopefully the US forces withdrawal from the DMZ area will pressure the South Korean government to increase defense spending.
The US sees other advantages in a pull-back from the DMZ.
Rumsfeld wants to give the U.S. forces in Korea the flexibility to train for missions elsewhere in the region. This will be facilitated by having most of them consolidated at hubs like the Osan air base south of Seoul and the Chinhae and Taegu areas in the southeast.
Putting US ground troops near the DMZ seems pointless. They are not needed to guarantee that US will play a role defending South Korea. If the North attacks the South there is no doubt that the US will retaliate against the North. In fact, the US would welcome the opportunity to have a reason to hit North Korea hard with an intense heavy series of air strikes.
The South Korean government does not want to see US forces withdraw from the proximity with DMZ because the South Koreans think the US will be more likely to launch a preemptive air strike against North Korea if US troops are not within range of a retaliatory North Korean artillery barrage. While this withdrawal of US troops will put the US in a better position to do that the reason the US can't entirely eliminate the North Korean nuclear weapons development program with an air strike is that the location of the North Korean uranium enrichment centrifuges remains unknown. Therefore the US can't destroy them with an air strike.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 June 07 02:41 AM Korea|