The ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC), practically the last-standing U.S. military base in Yongsan, Seoul, will be relocated to the Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek by the end of 2021. The CFC’s relocation was agreed during the bilateral defense ministers’ talks in June but its specific timing has yet to be announced.
The South Korean presidential office held a meeting of the National Security Council standing meeting last month and decided to request the U.S. military for the early return of the U.S. military base in South Korea.
The two countries have agreed to complete the relocation of the CFC by the end of 2021 through negotiations, according to a military source on Sunday. Some say that an official agreement will be made during the 51st South Korea-U.S. Security Consultative Meeting to be held in Seoul from late October to early November.
There are over 30 CFC buildings, including convenience facilities, in the Yongsan base, however the relocation process is yet to start as of Sunday. When its relocation to Pyeongtaek was officially confirmed in June, it was estimated that the relocation process will begin sometime this year. “The CFC’s relocation will take place at once, rather than taking gradual steps,” said a South Korean military official.
The United States Forces Korea, the Eighth United States Army, the United Nations Command, and other key facilities in the Yongsan base have all been moved to Pyeongtaek. South Korea and the U.S., however, agreed in 2014 to maintain the CFC in the Yongsan base until wartime operational control is transferred to the South Korean military. The timing of the CFC’s relocation plan in late 2021 could be interpreted as the current administration’s determination to regain wartime operational control during President Moon Jae-in’s term, as pledged during his campaign for presidency.
If the two countries officially agree on the timing of the CFC’s relocation at the 51st Security Consultative Meeting, the return process of the Yongsan base will be accelerated. However, even with the return process kicking off this year, the actual return will take a substantial period as environmental inspections of the U.S. military base, resolution of environmental contamination, and other necessary steps must be addressed first.
Hyo-Ju Son firstname.lastname@example.org