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Reported Troop Moves 'Speculation'
By Joseph Giordono
Stars and Stripes
Pacific Edition

March 29, 2004,

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 forces.

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 proposals.

"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, Rumsfeld declined.

"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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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars & Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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