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U.S. Forces in Korea To Be Deployed To Iraq

Posted May. 17, 2004 21:56,   


The United States reportedly announced to the South Korean government through an official diplomatic channel on May 14 that it has decided to send 4,000 soldiers stationed in Korea to Iraq by as early as June.

Effectively, total U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula are predicted to be reduced because the U.S. government has not given a specific response on the dispatched soldiers’ return to Korea by reason of variable factors in the Iraq situation.

“The United States recently suggested its needs to transfer some of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK) because the Iraqi situation is getting worse, so the two nations decided to discuss the issue,” said Kim Sook, director general of the North America Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “However, our discussion is just in the beginning stage.”

During an additional briefing session yesterday, Kim said that Steven Hadley, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of the White House’s National Security Council (NSC), had telephoned the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ban Ki-mun, in the early morning and explained to him that it was “inevitable to move a brigade from the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division to Iraq to support a successful transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi civil government.” Prior to this, the U.S. government was known to have revealed on May 14 its plan of sending some U.S. troops in Korea to Iraq via diplomatic channels.

Another government official, hinting at the imminent timing of the transfer, said that dispatch of USFK troops to Iraq seemed to be quite an urgent situation.

The government announced that it would not review an additional troop dispatch of Korean soldiers to Iraq in line with the move of U.S. Forces stationed in Korea. However, disputes against the additional Korean troop dispatch are likely to be deepening as the United States has decided to send a part of the USFK to Iraq.

The government will hold a NSC standing committee meeting and discuss the matter on May 20. In addition, some day this week, President Roh Moo-hyun may preside over a meeting with foreign affairs and security officials.

Meanwhile, on May 16, a foreign news source in Washington reported, “The U.S. Department of Defense had sent 5,700 soldiers to Mosul in Iraq in last December, who originally were slated to replace 2nd Infantry Division troops of U.S. Forces in Korea.”

Regarding the report, the Associated Press, quoting a high official of the U.S. Department of Defense, said that the transfer of some U.S. troops in Korea to Iraq will be executed under the plan, which is a part of the rotational deployment of U.S. troops stationed in Iraq in late summer of this year.

A well-informed source in Washington regarded the USFK’s transfer to Iraq as a “U.S. government under pressure.” The source also said that 3,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Japan were also being quietly sent to Iraq.

Hyong-gwon Pu bookum90@donga.com