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New U.S. Army headquarters open in Pyeongtaek

Posted July. 12, 2017 07:16,   

Updated July. 12, 2017 07:34

The command of the U.S. Eighth Amy that controls the U.S. army stationed in South Korea held an inaugural ceremony on Tuesday for its new headquarters in Camp Humphreys, the Pyeongtaek base in Gyeonggi Province. This came 64 years after the command opened its base in Yongsan in central Seoul in August 1953, soon after the signing of the armistice treaty. As a result, the project to relocate the U.S. military bases in South Korea, which started in 2003 during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, has entered the final phase.

In attendance at the inaugural ceremony on the day were more than 300 people from South Korea and the U.S. including Thomas Vandal, commander of the Eighth Army, Lee Sang-cheol, first deputy chief at the National Security Office at the presidential office, and retired Gen. Baek Sun-yeop, a Korean War hero and honorary commander of the Eighth Army. The Eighth Army opened to Korean reporters its new headquarters.

“The 10.7-billion-dollar project dramatically increased the size of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, making it the largest U.S. Army garrison overseas in the Department of Defense," Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the Eight Army, said in his welcome remarks. “Once complete in 2020, the transformation will also greatly enhance our quality of life, our force protection and ultimately - our readiness to fight.”

The relocation of the Eighth Army to Pyeongtaek is part of the project to relocate and redeploy U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, which is underway following an agreement between the two allies. The purpose of the project is to integrate U.S. military bases scattered nationwide to two main clusters namely the "Pyeongtaek and Osan central region cluster" and the "Daegu, Waegwan, Gimcheon southern region cluster," securing an environment for stable stationing of the troops. The project originally started for slated completion in 2008, but has been delayed repeatedly due to budgetary constraints and other reasons.

The relocation of the Eighth Army started on April 25 by moving the statue of Gen. Walton Walker, who served as the Eighth Army’s first commander during the Korean War, and will end in August. Afterwards, the U.S. Forces Korea Command in Yongsan will relocate in November and other key units will complete relocation by year’s end, before the units under the U.S. Second Infantry Division in Uijeongbu and Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province will move to the Pyeongtaek Base by the end of next year. According to the U.S. Forces Korea, the relocation project was 94.5 percent complete as of late June.

The headquarters of the South Korea-U.S. Joint Command will stay put in Yongsan until the wartime operational control is transferred to South Korea from the U.S. in line with the Seoul-Washington agreement signed in 2014. The two allies are discussing about the command's remaining site in Yongsan and related costs.