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28 July 2004

U.S. Troop Relocation Shows Strength of U.S.-Korea Alliance

U.S., ROK representatives discuss Alliance Policy Initiative

Government representatives from the United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) hailed recent agreements to relocate U.S. troops in South Korea as proof the alliance between the two countries is working well.

Richard Lawless, deputy under secretary of defense for Asia-Pacific affairs, Ahn Kwang Chan, deputy minister of policy in the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense, Evans Revere from the Department of State's Bureau for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, and Kim Sook, director general from the Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, discussed the successful conclusion of the 10th round of talks under the "Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative" at a Foreign Press Center briefing in Washington July 23.

Lawless called the agreement to relocate the U.S. Second Infantry Division, as well as U.S. troops now in the Seoul metropolitan area, to bases south of the Han River "good news" for both countries and a fulfillment of a commitment that President Bush and President Roh Moo-hyun made to one another during their May 2003 summit meeting in Washington.

Revere noted the agreement will satisfy the longstanding wishes of the Korean people and will also "open the way for the United States to rationalize and consolidate its base presence in the Republic of Korea," as well as enhance force capability and efficiencies in personnel and land use.

According to Revere, the troop relocation "will provide a more stable basing environment for U.S. forces in Korea and greatly enhance, in our view, public support for our military presence in the Republic of Korea."

Kim lauded the agreement as "a symbol of a successful ROK-U.S. alliance" and noted that the move of U.S. troops from Yongsan in Seoul, the South Korean capital, is estimated to cost $3-4 billion. "We've been putting utmost efforts to minimize the cost which will be borne by the citizens of ROK," he said. "And we have tried, additionally tried to assure the opaqueness of the cost procedure."
There are approximately 8,000 U.S. service members now located in the Seoul metropolitan area. Their relocation will be completed by December 2008.
The Second Infantry Division, now located in camps north of Seoul, will be moved at a yet-to-be-determined date to the Pyongtaek area, approximately 50 miles south of Seoul.

Some 37,000 U.S. troops serve in all of South Korea.

Following is a transcript of the discussion:

(begin transcript)

Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative

Richard P. Lawless
Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Asia-Pacific Affairs
U.S. Department of Defense
And
Mr. Ahn Kwang Chan
Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense
And
Mr. Evans Revere
Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs
U.S. Dept. of State
And
Mr. Kim Sook
Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
July 23, 2004

COL MACHAMER: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. As most of you all aware, the tenth round of talks under the Future of the Alliance Policy Initiative took place in Washington yesterday and today between representatives of the United States and South Korea.

Here today to give us a readout on the talks that were completed this afternoon are the leaders of both delegations and from your left to your right I'll introduce them: Mr. Richard Lawless, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Asia-Pacific Affairs; Mr. Ahn Kwang Chan, Deputy Minister of Policy in the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense; Mr. Evans Revere from the Department of State's Bureau for East Asia and Pacific Affairs; and Mr. Kim Sook, Director General from the Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The gentlemen each will have an opening statement and then we'll be glad to take your questions. I note for our Korean media you should ask your questions in media -- or in Korean, as well as the opening statements will be in Korean. We will provide consecutive translation in English for both questions and answers.

Gentlemen, thank you for coming.

MR. LAWLESS: Well, first of all, on behalf of the American delegation and, to a degree, the Republic of Korea delegation, we appreciate you all joining with us on a Friday afternoon. I'm sure you've all got better things to do. But for us, the United States and the Republic of Korea, this is a very, very important day. We've worked very hard over the past 18 months to reach the agreements that we've reached today. I think those agreements are detailed in the joint press statement that we've previously passed out. Additionally, there will be a blue topper issued by the Department of Defense -- it'll be on its website -- and these two will be hyperlinked.

But the important message of the day today is that the alliance is well, working toward its goals, is progressing. We've worked toward these two agreements, the agreement on the relocation of Yongsan and the American troops in the Seoul metropolitan area to south of the Han River and the relocation and consolidation of the Second ID Division, over ten Future of the Alliance meetings.

And we've come to the point today where we have agreements that we're about to implement, and that's good news for the United States. It's very good news, we believe, also for the Republic of Korea and it fulfills, very importantly, a commitment that President Bush and President Roh Moo-hyun made to one another back in May 2003, when they met here in Washington, D.C., at their summit meeting.

Again, it's a very important day for us and we're very happy to be where we are in this process.

Thank you.

MR. AHN: Both nations have successfully completed the tenth round of FOTA consultations. We have completely resolved and reached an agreement on open issues; in particular, size of land provisions of the UAIA for Yongsan location and amended LPP for USFK realignment, including the Second ID redeployment.

These documents will be officially signed after domestic legal procedures and approval from the National Assembly is met. Based on the spirit of the ROK-U.S. alliance, both nations have exerted our efforts to deduce a result that is both satiable and reasonably understandable, especially considering that land in Korea is very much limited. We have focused to maximize the efficiency of land usage and minimize costs by close and sincere discussions to deduce a fruitful result.

And I would like to express my deepest, deepest gratitude for the U.S.'s warm welcome during our stay in Washington, D.C. and its help or cooperation in including the documents and understanding the sentiments of Korean citizens.

MR. REVERE: My colleague, Mr. Lawless, I think, has covered most of the critical points for the U.S. delegation, but as his co-chair on the U.S. side of these talks, I just wanted to add a few additional remarks, if I might.

Today's agreement is the result of a very successful and close coordination and cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Korea, and I think this coordination and cooperation is, indeed, the hallmark of the sort of alliance relationship that we have.

And as Mr. Lawless said a few moments ago, this agreement indeed fulfills a very important commitment that President Bush and President Roh made to each other last year.

And this agreement also represents the fulfillment of a very longstanding United States desire to rationalize our military base presence in the Republic of Korea, particularly in some of Korea's urban areas.

And the agreement will free up some very valuable land for use by Korean municipalities and local communities, thereby satisfying the longstanding wishes and desires of the inhabitants of those communities in Korea.

And in doing so, the agreement will also open the way for the United States to rationalize and consolidate its base presence in the Republic of Korea, and that is a process which will enhance our capability of our forces there and allow us to achieve a number of efficiencies in terms of our base utilization and our personnel and land use.

And from the U.S. perspective, it's important to note that, when fully implemented, the agreement will provide a more stable basing environment for U.S. forces in Korea and greatly enhance, in our view, public support for our military presence in the Republic of Korea.

These talks and this agreement are part of a U.S. effort to strengthen the capabilities of our forces in Korea, to enhance our ability to fulfill our defense commitments to the Republic of Korea, and to ensure a lasting and firm basis for our military presence in the Republic of Korea. And this agreement is indeed, in our view, a significant step forward in U.S.-ROK relations and it reflects the strength of our partnership and the continuing close cooperation between us.

Thank you.

MR. KIM: Through ten rounds of FOTA consultations in 14 months, we have concluded an agreement on the Yongsan relocation and amended LPP. From this perspective, we have established the legal basis for the USFK realignment process. This also is a symbol of a successful ROK-U.S. alliance. When we return back to Korea, there are still standing issues, from getting an approval of domestic procedures and signing -- official signing process.

However, the ROK government is committed to facilitate the early implementation of this process. This agreement will not be happening without the close cooperation and perseverance between -- based on the spirit of the alliance.

Thank you.

COL MAHAMER: Before we go to questions, just a reminder, please wait for the microphone and identify yourself by name and news organization. And also, one additional note: Due to the limited amount of time the gentlemen have to spend with us today, I would request that you keep your questions on the topic of today's briefing, which are the conclusions of the talk.

Thank you.

QUESTION: In the ninth FOTA meeting, I believe that there has been a figure around three million pyong has been requested to the ROK side. And has any -- is the use -- has the use been determined for the final agreement figure?

And the second question is, the realignment process itself have two sides: One is it is driven by the GPR plan that U.S. has; and also, from the ROK side, it is driven by the ROK's request to consolidate bases. Which of the sides has been more focused?

MR. LAWLESS: Good question. Good questions. First of all, I think that the suggestion that we were only talking about three million pyong at ninth FOTA session may be misinformed. There's been a lot of confusion, unfortunately, on who was asking for how much pyong and what that pyong was assigned to, whether it was assigned to Yongsan relocation or 2ID consolidation and relocation. So there's an immense amount of confusion.

Without going into that issue in detail, let me just say that the compromise agreement that we've reached today accommodates what we need and is a reasonable compromise with the Republic of Korea, and I think that it will serve us very well in the future, both sides.

That would be my answer to your first question, and I would invite any of my -- either one of my Korean colleagues or Mr. Revere to address that first issue of the amount of pyong. But right now, because we've reached agreement, we would just as soon put that issue behind us, behind both countries and behind the alliance.

With regard to the second question, it is a bit confusing and there are indeed different priorities and different motivations. However, as you're aware, it's been a longstanding request by the people of Korea, citizens of the Republic of Korea, as well as the citizens of Seoul, that we relocate ourselves out of the Seoul metropolitan area. So this has been a long time coming and we're trying to be very respectful to the Republic of Korea's request on that issue.

With regard to the realignment and consolidation of the 2nd Infantry Division, the issue here has been for quite some time the fact that we are arranged north of the Han River in locations which are not optimal for enduring facilities, and they are also not optimal in the context of the discomfort it causes the Korean people, particularly where those bases have now become in urbanized areas and they encroach upon the daily lives of the Korean people. So this is very much driven by our desire to become a better partner there, a better guest, and to realign our facilities and consolidate ourselves.

MR. AHN: I'd like to add a comment regarding the land issue. The final figures for the land requirement has been determined through deep, in-depth review based on the land NP data that has been presented by the U.S. And with this final decision, we have closely discussed with the U.S. side to come to an agreement on the final figure.

Recalling that in the ninth FOTA we had -- we could not conclude the agreement because of this land issue and we have -- we'd like to assert that we have put amount of effort to review the validated basis of the data.

I'd like to add some comments with the previous comments. The first -- first, both sides have separately calculated the land requirement, and while reviewing the figure that was presented by the U.S., we were considering two factors, first being whether the reflection -- whether it had been -- the troop reduction had been reflected in this figure; second, whether it is -- if reflected, whether it is appropriate figure to accommodate the troops.

First answer is that 12,500 troops were reflected in this figure; and second, we believe that we come to -- we came to an agreement through discussions to minimize the land requirements to come to a 3.49 million pyong.

MR. REVERE: Let me just add one point to that, to the excellent comments that have been made thus far, and that is that the United States estimate of its land needs was the result of a very intense and hard-nosed and realistic assessment of what our future needs would be for our facilities and training purposes in the Republic of Korea.

And in addition to that, it was also a reflection of the realization of both sides of the need to balance this realistic assessment of our future land requirements in the Republic of Korea with the reality of an increasingly urbanized Republic of Korea, and of the need to make sure that the requirements that we were setting out for our presence there were, at the absolute minimum, necessary to perform our mission in Korea.

And just one final point in that regard, and that is that all of us on the U.S. side over the years and over the decades have listened very carefully and very closely to local communities and citizens in Korea about the particular difficulties and burdens that sometimes living next to bases impose.

I, myself, as a young member of our military forces 35 years ago, almost exactly 35 years ago today, arrived in Korea and stepped onto Yongsan base and began to hear those voices. And ever since then, all of have been very carefully reflecting on what could be done in the future to rationalize our presence, and the agreement that we've achieved here is the product of many years of efforts and hard work on the part of both sides.

MR. KIM: I'd like to add some comments on the second question regarding the -- which side will assume the cost, the subject of the cost and the GPR (Global Posture Review) plan -- GPR. The '90s MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) states that it is an international -- based on '90s MOA and MOU, it is an international norm that the requestee assumes the cost for the relocation. It is also same for -- same in the case of Germany and Japan. And I would like to state that the Republic of Korea requested for the relocation of bases and that is why Republic of Korea is assuming its costs.

And I would like to add regarding the GPR, the Yongsan relocation plan had been discussed even before the arising of GPR plan. And I believe that the Yongsan relocation plan has the very least relations to the GPR, comparing with the other relocation processes.

I'd like to make an additional comment. The Yongsan relocation project incurs $3 to $4 billion, and where in discussions with the U.S. side, we've been putting utmost efforts to minimize the cost which will be borne by the citizens of ROK, by the ROK nationals. And we have tried, additionally tried to assure the opaqueness of the cost procedure.

COL MACHAMER: Okay, we'll go to the front row.

QUESTION: There were -- the word that the agreement has been reached has been sent to the Republic of Korea. And I believe that many NGOs and minority parties have been dissenting this agreement because it has the structure of '90s MOA and MOU have been maintained. And I believe that we can expect some difficulties in obtaining the national assembly approval. Is there any possibility for renegotiation?

And the second question goes to Mr. Lawless. You have expressed -- during the FOTA discussions, you have expressed some dissent or some problems to the ROK media. Specifically, in ninth FOTA, you have stated that the troop level will be reduced by 12,500 by the timeframe of 2005. And this brought up a lot of conflict in the Republic of Korea. Is there -- have there been any discussions regarding the timeline for the reduction, or, if not, how it will be handled in the context of the FOTA discussions?

MR. AHN: I'd like to give answers regarding the first question. I believe that there has been some dissatisfaction towards the agreement and I believe that it is because they have the -- it is because of the misunderstanding or misunderstandings of the details of the agreement. When we return to Korea, we will try to explain to the ROK media and public of the background and details of the agreement and also the progress that we have partaken in the discussions.

With this in mind, we can explain to the public and media that the agreement, the current agreement, is the best solution that we have. In this perspective, I believe that there are no -- there is, at this moment, there are no possibilities for renegotiation.

MR. KIM: Regarding the first question, regarding the first question, I'd like to add some comments. The question has been -- had been that there were no differences, significant differences with the '90s MOU and MOA. And first, I would like to answer that there are a substantial amount of differences, first being that the MOA and MOU had been an agreement between the organizations and it has some controversies over the unconstitutionalities. This -- the currently UAIA will be ratified in -- ratified -- will be drafted as a treaty and ratified in the National Assembly for the people of the Korea and U.S. to see, to witness.

And second, we have enhanced, or we have corrected, the unjust clauses that we had in MOA and MOU, namely, they are lost revenues and non-SOFA claims, and we also established a cost planning -- cost validation procedures.

Third, we have also include a clause that reflects the contaminations -- contamination.

Fourth, the additional 80,000 pyong in the Yongsan garrison will be returned to Korea.

Fifth, the embassy area will be returned to Korea.

Fifth, we have established a joint validation procedure for the cost.

MR. LAWLESS: Before addressing the second question, let me just add one quick comment to the first question. As very well stated by Deputy Minister Ahn and Director General Kim, I would suggest that, as the model that you look to for the way we're trying to do this agreement, and actually, the way the Republic of Korea is presenting this agreement to its people, the model is actually the Land Partnership Plan, which was done two years ago or three years ago.

That agreement was done in a very transparent way: it was presented to the National Assembly; it was reviewed by the National Assembly; and it was accepted, I believe, with full visibility to the Korean people. And I think that was the intention of our counterparts in the Republic of Korea this time. They impressed the necessity on us to do it this way. We've done it this way, and I think when all of these documents are presented to the National Assembly for the review of the people of Korea, they'll be very satisfied with the transparency that's inherent in these agreements.

With regard to your second question, at the ninth FOTA, Mr. Evans Revere and myself held a press conference, and that press conference was held, I believe, the day after the Republic of Korea had made its own official press conference on the consultation issue. What we attempted to do was clarify some confusing points that had come out in the press at that point.

If either one of us expressed any frustration at that point, it was simply that the news was running ahead of the facts and we were attempting to get the facts out there and clarify and set straight some misinformation that was swirling around in the press.

To get to the core of your question, yes, we continue to have consultations. At the time of the FOTA meeting, it coincided with the beginning of consultations on troop redeployment. Those discussions are not taking place in the context of FOTA; they're a separate set of discussions. The consultations are continuing and we will continue to work very hard with the Republic of Korea to reach agreement on this consultative process on troop reductions.

But I, again, and my last comment would be not to detract or distract from what we've accomplished in this session, and the main thrust and the main theme of everything we've been doing together, as partners for the last 14 months, is to reach agreement on Yongsan and reach agreement on the realignment and redeployment of the Second Infantry Division. And these are absolutely core necessities for us to go forward in best faith for this alliance and that's what we've really put ourselves to in the FOTA process.

QUESTION: Deputy Minister Ahn have mentioned that the process of the discussions has been facilitated because the U.S. had recognized the public sentiment of the ROK nationals. And I would like to ask which part the U.S. has said? And I would like to also ask the U.S. side that the Koreans -- Koreans won't be satisfied looking at the results, and which part did the U.S. side reflect this statement?

MR. AHN: I believe that the word "concession" is not the right word to express our relationship. I believe that we have mutual -- we have come to an agreement based on mutual understandings of both sides. The ROK side was trying to establish a stable stationing environment for the USFK U.S. forces in Korea, which ensures to defend the Korean Peninsula; and U.S. side considers that the Korean Peninsula is -- has very limited space in the country and it also reflected or it also considers the discomfort of the ROK nationals. And with these two elements, we discussed to come to a reasonable figure that will satisfy both nations.

MR. LAWLESS: I'd like to add one comment to that. You asked for specific examples. And to share one with you, the Republic of Korea continuously said to us, just as the land that must be purchased for the relocation of Yongsan has great value and is very scarce in Korea, so, too, the land that you are able to return to us, to the people of Korea, has great value.

So because we're doing the Land Partnership Plan and we're amending the Land Partnership Plan as a companion agreement to the Yongsan agreement, there was a lot of discussion about what valuable properties can be returned earlier to the Korean people, earlier than was originally agreed in the Land Partnership Plan two years ago.

In the joint press release, we actually identify some of those areas in which we have agreed to do -- make our best effort on a much faster timeline and indeed return some very valuable property to the Korean people much earlier than was originally agreed in the Land Partnership Plan.

COL MACHAMER: If any of you would like to comment on it.

MR. REVERE: Let me, if I might just add one thought to that, and that is to, obviously, agree with what my good colleague, Mr. Lawless, has said, but also to very closely associate myself with the way that my colleague, General Ahn, responded to your question a moment ago.

And he questioned the premise of your question and I would like to do the same by noting that this is an alliance partnership. This is one of the most vibrant and vital alliance relationships that the United States has anywhere in the world, and the United States is very proud to be a cooperative partner of the Republic of Korea in making the progress that we have made by virtue of the agreements that we have achieved.

And allies and partners don't keep score and don't score points against each other. This has been, in our view, a win-win agreement for both the United States of America and for the Republic of Korea and for the Korean people and the American people and both of our military forces on the Korean Peninsula.

COL MACHAMER: We have time for one more question. (No response.) All right.

Well, thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for coming. And I would like to again thank our distinguished panel for taking the time to be here with us today. Thank you, gentlemen.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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