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Korean Troop Cut Rumor Surprises U.S.

Posted November. 21, 2005 08:40,   


The Bush administration seemed to be puzzled about how to react to the report of a planned reduction of 1,000 Korean troops in Iraq on November 18 when U.S. President George W. Bush was in Korea for the APEC summit. The report may have come as a surprise because it came at a time when Bush strongly refuted the arguments for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The possible withdrawal of South Korean troops, the third largest contingent among U.S. allies in Iraq, could allow opponents of the Iraq war in the U.S. to make a stronger case for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, especially when Bush attacked his opponents, saying, “Pulling out troops from Iraq is a remedy for catastrophe” at the U.S. air force base in Osan, Gyeonggi on November 18.

The Washington Post reported on November 19 that “the Bush administration is facing unexpected adverse winds.” Stephen Hadley, White House national security adviser who was in Korea with Bush, stressed on November 18, “The plan was mentioned by some officials of the Ministry of Defense, but we don’t regard it as an official announcement.” Frederick Jones, the National Security Council spokesman, stated, “The U.S. has not received any official notification on this matter from the Korean government.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense emphasized, “There have been several working-level consultations with the U.S..” This means that there is no chance that major U.S. policy makers were not aware of the planned withdrawal because this is such a sensitive issue, and because the Korean media has made a series of reports on the possible reduction of Korean troops in Iraq.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com ysh1005@donga.com