South Korea Says U.S. to Withdraw One-Third of Troops


SEOUL — ; The United States plans to withdraw one-third of its 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea by the end of next year, a South Korean Foreign Ministry official said, as the two countries discussed U.S. plans to reposition troops stationed along the world's last Cold War frontier.

A U.S. delegation, led by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless, said Washington wanted to withdraw some 12,500 U.S. troops by December 2005, Kim said. That would include about 3,600 scheduled already to be redeployed this summer from South Korea to Iraq, Kim Sook, director of the Foreign Ministry's North American bureau said.

The U.S. delegation was in Seoul for two days of talks on the future of the alliance.

The last cut in the number of U.S. troops in South Korea came in 1992. Washington has maintained a substantial military presence on the Korean Peninsula since the conclusion of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Future of the Alliance talks, Monday and Tuesday, were mainly to address a U.S. plan to reposition most of its forces currently stationed near the North Korean border to points south of the South Korean capital, Seoul. The proposal also would transfer about 7,000 U.S. forces and their families from the sprawling Yongsan Base in downtown Seoul to an expanded facility south of the capital by 2006.

The planned U.S. troop reduction is seen as part of Washington's global effort to realign its forces so they can better respond to emergencies worldwide. Although the number of U.S. troops in South Korea will decrease, Washington says the allies' defense capability will be unchanged and has promised to spend U.S. $11 billion in the next five years to upgrade its firepower there.

The realignment comes amid a regional standoff with North Korea about its nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea's 1.1-million-strong military dwarfs South Korea's 690,000 troops as well as the 37,500 U.S. troops currently in the south. But troop cuts are closely watched here because of their symbolic significance.

Washington announced plans last year to transform its forces worldwide and use advances in military technology and smaller, more mobile units to better respond to new security needs and fight terrorism. The move is also expected to cut U.S. forces in Germany.


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