I have been waiting to comment on the Korean media speculation that USFK was going to halt troop cuts and as I suspected the Korean media misquoted General Bell:
The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Tuesday confirmed a plan to reduce its troop level to 25,000 by the end of this year under a global scheme to reposition U.S. troops overseas.
The confirmation of the previously announced plan came in response to recent news reports claiming the U.S. had decided to freeze its troop level at the current 28,500. The news reports cited recent remarks by U.S. Pacific Commander Adm. Timothy Keating and Gen. B. B. Bell, commander of U.S. Forces Korea.
“There has been no proposal by Gen. Bell or any other United States government official to change the 2004 agreement on troop reductions,” Col. Franklin Childress, public affairs officer of the USFK, said in a statement, adding the policy to reduce the troop level to 25,000 remains in effect.
“Any changes to our agreements would be the subject of formal consultations and would be announced jointly by both the United States and the Republic of Korea should a change be agreed upon,” the USFK spokesman said, referring to South Korea by its official name. [Yonhap]
For those that follow affairs on the Korean peninsula, misquoting people in the Korean media is often an intentionally used tactic. The Korean government wants to stop the war time control hand over along with USFK troop cuts so I would not be surprised in the least if the Korean media is being used to further emphasize this desire. I see no way the Korean government is going to be able to stop the relocation with General Bell in charge and backed by the current Pentagon leadership. The troop reduction, war time control hand over, and USFK relocation are currently no longer negotiable.
What I expect the ROK government to do is try to delay as much as possible this year and then try to get the new US president to stop the USFK transformation. The delay game is the same tactic being used in North Korea as well in regards to their nuclear program. Both these governments like playing the delay game because it works.
My worst fear is that if a Democratic president takes over and starts withdrawing troops from Iraq, in order to look tough and reassure US allies about the US commitment to them, the new president could decide to keep troop levels or even worse bolster them on the Korean peninsula.Â If this happens give me a red head band and a picket sign because I think I will be out protesting with Hanchongnyun as well.
You can read more over at One Free Korea.