Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld left open the possibility of reducing
the number of U.S. troops in South Korea, saying at a Pentagon news conference
Thursday any such moves would be part of a larger, worldwide restructuring of
At the same time, he said, the future U.S. force will use technology to make
up for any change in troop strength.
"We will not do anything with respect to South Korea that will not assure
that the deterrent and the defensive capability will be healthy, strong and, I
would add, stronger than it is today, even though the numbers are going to
change — in what way, I don't know because we haven't had those discussions,"
Rumsfeld said, according to a Pentagon transcript of his remarks.
"What we're going to have to do, however, is to begin to think in different
terms, in a different context."
Rumsfeld made the comments in response to questions about reshaping forces
throughout the world. According to The Washington Post, the Pentagon has
drafted plans to withdraw up to half of 70,000 troops in Germany.
The plans also call for moving 15,000 troops from Asia by streamlining
commands in South Korea and Japan, the Post reported. Most of that would be
offset by more aircraft on Guam and a possible second aircraft carrier battle
group in the Pacific.
Rumsfeld, though, dismissed the report.
"Any speculation in the press that you see thus far is speculation, because
what we now have is a template where we feel we have options as to what we
could do," he said.
But, he said, the U.S. will begin approaching its allies with specific
"We're now at the point where we're going to begin talking to those countries
directly," he said, referring to countries such as Germany and South Korea.
"And we won't know what we want to know until we have talked to them and
gained a better understanding of what they're willing to do and how they're
willing to arrange our agreements."
When asked by a reporter if he could give a "sneak preview" on South Korea,
"No, no, no," he said. "We want to talk to our friends and allies before."
Those discussions would be based on two principles, he said.
"One principle is that we clearly do not want to want to bring all of our
forces home. We want to have a presence in various parts of the world because
it has a healthy deterrent effect. It has the effect also of enabling us to
train and work with our friends and allies around the world so that we can
function in a combined and joint manner in the event we're called to take
actions," Rumsfeld said.
"A second principle has been that we really want our forces where they're
wanted. We don't want to be in places where it's not terribly hospitable."
The presence of large numbers of U.S. forces in South Korea long has been an
irritant to many in the local population. American officials have explicitly
acknowledged this, agreeing to move the U.S. Army's Yongsan Garrison
headquarters — and 7,000 servicemembers — out of Seoul.
But U.S. Forces Korea and Korean Ministry of National Defense officials
repeatedly have insisted there are no plans to reduce the number of troops on
peninsula or relocate the command structure.
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