The United States has proposed withdrawing
about one-third of American troops from South Korea by the end of next year,
as part of a realignment of forces under discussion with authorities in Seoul.
The Pentagon confirms that a senior U.S. defense official has presented South
Korean authorities with what is termed a "concept proposal" for the withdrawal
of 12,500 troops from the peninsula by the end of next year. There are about
37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.
The senior official, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific
Affairs Richard Lawless, unveiled the proposal in talks Sunday in Seoul. Mr.
Lawless made clear the one-third cut in the U.S. force in South Korea will
include a brigade being transferred to Iraq later this year.
That move, involving 3,600 troops, was announced last month. At the time,
it was unclear whether the soldiers would return to South Korea at the conclusion
of their Iraq tour.
Mr. Lawless is quoted by a Pentagon spokesman as saying details of the overall
redeployment proposal are being worked out in consultations with the South
Mr. Lawless is leading the U.S. side in two days of talks focusing on the
movement of several-thousand American troops away from front-line positions
along the demilitarized zone with North Korea, as well as from central Seoul,
to new facilities south of the capital.
Defense officials are stressing the proposed cuts in U.S. troop strength
will not weaken the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea. They say
numbers of soldiers alone are not a true measure of U.S. strength and emphasize
that there are other military options and capabilities to deter any potential
attack by North Korea.