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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Tracking Number:  128983

Title:  "Cheney Reaffirms US Commitment to Korea." Defense Sec Richard Cheney's press conference regarding possible troop reductions in South Korea. (900216)

Date:  19900216


02/16/90 *


(Transcript: February 16 press conference)

Seoul -- Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney confirmed that a reduction in troop levels in Korea is under consideration but said a specific number is "a matter to be discussed on a consultative basis between U.S. and Korean officials."

In response to questions from reporters February 16, Cheney said, "it's important to emphasize that the kind of adjustment we're talking about would, in fact, preserve and protect our capacity to maintain our commitment to the Republic of Korea."

Following is a transcript of statements read by Secretary of Defense Cheney and Korean Defense Minister Lee and questions and answers at the press conference following the U.S.-Korean Defense Ministers Conference:

(begin transcript)

Secretary of Defense Cheney's opening statement:

As I indicated when I arrived, I have had extensive talks with President Roh and with Minister Lee. During these talks, I have emphasized that it is the intention of the United States to maintain a military presence on the Korean peninsula in keeping with President Bush's assurances last year. The threat to peace of the peninsula has not changed. The significant military offensive capability of North Korea still provides them the ability to attack at a time and place of their choosing. Therefore in the interest of peace and stability on the peninsula and in the region it is necessary to maintain the combat capability of the combined forces defending the Republic of Korea.

During my talks with President Roh and Minister of National Defense Lee, I noted that Republic of Korea-U.S. security relationship continues to be the centerpiece for relations between our two nations. The spectacular record of the Republic of Korea in achieving and maintaining a high rate of economic growth, coupled with the increased military capability of its forces which are equipped with sophisticated equipment and led by thoroughly trained professionals, dictates that the nature of our relationship change somewhat. The Republic of Korea can now do more in providing for its own security.

I feel the meetings we have just completed are important steps in the consultative process between the United States and the Republic of Korea regarding the direction the security relationship will move in the 1990s. We shall continue in these consultations in an orderly fashion. The country team under Ambassador Gregg and General Menetrey's leadership will carry on with the

GE 2 epf507 Republic of Korea government more detailed discussions on how changes will be implemented.

I wish to stress that consultations are just beginning and that we will make any changes in such a manner as to assure that the combat readiness of both the United States and Republic of Korea forces are not eroded. We are not going to move precipitously. Our commitment remains strong. The threat remains undiminished. (End Cheney statement.)

ROK Defense Minister Lee's opening statement:

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for the opportunity of meeting with you who are here to report the results of the U.S.-ROK Defense Ministers Conference. This conference in itself has symbolic significance in that it was held at the time when we have to further develop bilateral military partnerships at the outset of the 1990s, to which we look forward with much anticipation.

Secretary Cheney and I have had a full meeting in an atmosphere of friendship and earnestness. We have exchanged views on the future of U.S. Forces Korea, anticipated changes in our roles, determined burden sharing, Yongsan base relocation plans, and future military cooperation.

In conference, the U.S. commitment to the defense of Korea was reaffirmed. With regard to the future of U.S. Forces Korea, and the anticipated change in their roles, we addressed to the best of our ability a gradual-phase approach within the framework of maintaining the effective deterrent capability on the peninsula. Concerning defense cost-sharing, we agreed to work together to the maximum on the basis of mutual understanding and reciprocity.

We anticipate the increase in mutual issues as our bilateral security cooperation advances. Secretary Cheney and I agree to seek positive solutions through productive consultations so I am satisfied with the results of the conference. I extend my appreciation to you both domestic and foreign correspondents for coming to cover this meeting. Thank you.

(End of Lee statement.)

Questions and Answers:

Q: During the course of the conference has there any discussions with regard to the improvement measures on the combined command structure? If any, please explain? More specifically, that question would include whether there was any discussion of the eventual postural transfer of operational control?

A (ROK): This question has to do with the changes in the role of the United States Forces Korea as a whole. (From) a leading role to supportive role and this, of course, has to do with the command structure of the United States Forces Korea or the Combined Forces Command. The U.S. side

GE 3 epf507 explained the rationale and the background of this role changes involving U.S. Forces Korea and in response the Republic of Korea accepted the idea in principle; however, we have not gone into details in discussing this matter with the understanding that these matters have many varied aspects or ramifications, so we are going to -- we agree to leave this matter with the close consultation between high ranking Korean-American experts, military leaders. For instance, the command structure, which has to do with command structure of the combined field army, the DCINCS, ground component command structure and then again this has to do with the representation to the UNCMAC, United Nations command component of the Armistice Commission, and the like. And nothing -- the specifics. It is nothing in specific terms has been determined or concluded during the course of the conference.

A (U.S.): I would simply say that I think Minister Lee has answered the question very thoroughly, that what we -- that these are subjects to be discussed through the consultative process, that as sort of a guiding principle we talked about the U.S. becoming -- or playing more of a supportive role in the future than we have in the past as the Republic of Korea takes the lead and command arrangements are one of the subjects that would be discussed by experts in follow- up consultations.

Q: Mr. Cheney and Minister Lee, following all the recent meetings between Secretary Baker and Prime Minister Schevardnaze, has there been any discussion on possible improvements in the Soviet-North Korean relationship. Specifically, is the United States asking or is the Soviet Union considering reducing arms shipments or aid to North Korea?

A (U.S.): I am not in a position to speculate about possible improvements in Soviet relations with other countries, including North Korea. We have, in the past, expressed to the Soviets our concerns about North Korea, including their failure to enter into adequate safeguard arrangements in connection with their obligations as a signature to the bon-proliferation treaty. It is a subject that we discuss from time to time with the Soviets in our bilateral relations. I don't have anything I can add beyond that.

A (ROK): I don't think I do have any relevance to answer that particular question.

Q: The question has to do with North Korean overture for the tension reduction. Could that lead to the gesture of inducing some arms control, arms deduction negotiations proposal? Or if there in any additional measures to be taken on the part of North Korea, could that lead to the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Republic of Korea. And there has been often mentioned a four-man

GE 4 epf507 committee involving high ranking officials from both the U.S. and ROK governments, Korean foreign minister, Ambassador Gregg, and General Menetrey and defense minister. Is that a provisional forum or is that a standing committee? What is the official title, if any?

A (ROK): The individual tension reduction measures to be taken on the part of North Korea could be a change in their labor party provisions. Their final objective is to communize the whole territory by armed means. Or they would effect meaningful change, in other words, redeploy the forward deployed troops from the forward positions. Or they could come to the talking table between the south and north of Korea more positively. There could be other measures -- other overtures that they could take, but in any way all these conceivable or possible peace overturns or tension reduction measures on the part of North Korea were closely watched. Now, on the second question, their additional -- any of their additional measures would not, I believe, lead to an eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces. The U.S. forces, the forces in Korea, such withdrawal should not be continued by such elements. Rather, by the strategic and tactical consideration involving ROK-U.S. experts in the wake of the in-depth reevaluation of the security environment and situation present if northeast Asian section -- the northeast Asian region. So I think under any case in order for a meaningful reduction of withdrawal of U.S. forces to be implemented a full consultation should proceed.

A (U.S.): If I may comment briefly on the question. The United States would clearly welcome efforts aimed at reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula. At this point, we haven't seen any significant progress in that area. The question about whether or not the United States would withdraw I think has been adequately addressed by my colleague, Minister Lee. As long as there is a threat to the Republic of Korea and/or as long as the people of Korea want the United States to be present here, we will be present here. Our troops serve not only to deter aggression against the Republic of Korea, but also to protect our mutual security interests those of both Korea and the United States the region of the northeastern part of Asia and I think our presence here serves not only to deter an attack upon the Republic of Korea, but also to enhance stability and the prospects for peace throughout this part of the world. And for that reason, as I said again, as long as the people of the Republic of Korea want a U.S. presence here, we will be here.

Q: Both the flip-page of reduction in U.S. troops when you urged a gradual phase-change in total U.S. forces, but yet you promised no precipitous change. I'd like to ask you gentlemen how the Republic of Korea feels about the U.S. plans to withdraw as many as 5,000 troops over the next

GE 5 epf507 three years and to sharply increase South Korean support for the remaining U.S. troops?

A (ROK): I think I should clarify the words of expression which I frequently use "gradual or in stages." In using that I have been referring to the possible reduction -- troop reduction -- of noncombatants. Even though they are noncombatants in status, they are contributing to the combat strength of the -- to the combined defense of the Republic. And as far as the numerical figure of troop strength, that is to be properly left with the military experts. For instance, the commander of the United States Forces in Korea and the Chairman of ROK/JCS who can -- duties would be regarded as military expert ahd they should certainly provide base for a numerical figure of how many, 5,000 or 6,000, or recommendation to the higher authorities. But during the course of the conference, I as the defense minister of Korean-host nation accepted in principle the idea of the gradual -- the cut-backs -- of troop strength. I'm referring to noncombatant. But for the detailed implementation has to the first routed through those military experts, local commanders and local military experts, Korean and American. But I stressed during the course the desirability of effecting such troop reductions within the framework that we can ensure no operational degradation.

A (U.S.): If I might follow on to Minister Lee's comments. I think the appropriate way to describe the current situation is as Minister Lee did. That is to say that the -- we clearly are discussing the possibility of adjusting U.S. force levels in Korea. That specifically means we are considering the possibility of reducing force levels in Korea, but a specific number is a matter to be discussed on a consultative basis between U.S. and Korean officials and it's important to emphasize that the kind of adjustment we're talking about would, in fact, preserve and protect our capacity to maintain our commitment to the Republic of Korea. It's the kind of adjustment that would he done gradually, that would be done -- would be phased in over time and would be designed to protect the essential combat capability of U.S. Forces in Korea. This is not an issue that is being discussed only in connection with U.S. Forces in Korea. I, as Secretary of Defense, am in the middle of reassessing our requirements throughout the Pacific under a directive from Congress. We are also now in the process of negotiating with the Congress of the United States a budget that would reduce the size of our armed forces beginning in 1991 and looking out to the future. Korea has by no means been singled out in this process.

We think we can, if we're careful and prudent, and if we do it in a manner that fully takes into account the needs and requirements and capabilities of our key allies, in this case the Republic of Korea, make these kinds of adjustments in the U.S. force levels while maintaining our commitment and our

GE 6 epf507 determination to deter any aggression upon the United States or our allies.

Q: Excuse me, I'm sorry. On the burden-sharing, I don't believe the question was answered. But I asked that the Korean reaction could be to sharply increasing its support of U.S. forces in Korea over the next three years?

A (ROK): About the cost-sharing requirement. First, I'd like to express my appreciation of the U.S. administration position on the current deficit situation prevalent in the United States. I made it very clear that the Republic of Korea is willing to increase cost-sharing on a gradual basis within the limits of its ability or (inaudible). And in that spirit, we will continue to bear the cost attributed to the enhancement of combined defense capabilities and we are going to give positive consideration to providing or even increasing the direct support-type of cost-sharing for the United States forces in Korea. In addition, I have questioned some considerations be given to our situation here in the Republic. For instance, the capital GNP of Japan is five times as Korea's, but with Germany four times. So I think in proportion to that per capita income, with the Republic of Korea is contributing considerable amount of cost- sharing for our own self. Just like the United States has its own Congress and House of Representatives, the Republic of Korea has a National Assembly. So in the effectuation of this cost-sharing increase, I talked to Secretary Cheney and we will try our very best. In very close consultation of the National Assembly and other concerned government agencies, like economic planning board. Thank you.

(End text)


File Identification:  02/16/90, EP-507
Product Name:  Wireless File
Product Code:  WF
Document Type:  TRA
Thematic Codes:  140; 1EA
Target Areas:  EA
PDQ Text Link:  128983

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