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SEOUL -- A major change in the U.S. military’s plan to consolidate manpower and equipment south of Seoul as early as 2016 may be in the offing.
U.S. Forces Korea officials have proposed to their South Korean counterparts that the 210th Fires Brigade remain based at Camp Casey in Dongducheon -- north of Seoul and about 15 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone -- when the troop shift is done, Korean media outlets have reported, quoting anonymous South Korean government and military officials.
American officials feel that U.S. forces would not be able to respond as quickly as they might need to in the event of a North Korean attack if the brigade moves, as originally planned, to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, 45 miles south of Seoul, the sources reportedly said.
In the event of such an attack, the 1,500 soldiers of the 210th Fires would be responsible for neutralizing the North’s heavy mechanized units and long-range artillery.
The 2016 consolidation of U.S. military assets south of Seoul is scheduled to follow a 2015 transfer of wartime operational control to the South in the event South Korean and American troops resume hostilities with North Korea.
In response to an inquiry about the reported 210th Fires proposal, USFK issued a statement saying, “As a matter of policy, we do not discuss operation planning. We will continue to work through planning the transfer to a Republic of Korea-led combined defense and remain on track and committed to the Strategic Alliance 2015 milestones.”
USFK has in the past posted statements of clarification on its website when it felt Korean media reports were misleading or mistaken. No such statement has been posted in response to the 210th Fires reports from media outlets such as The Chosun Ilbo and Yonhap News Agency.
South Korean officials with the Ministry of National Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Combined Forces Command on Monday declined comment, or referred questions about those reports to other agencies.
There are 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea on more than 100 bases stretching from the DMZ to the southern coast of the peninsula.
As part of a multi-faceted plan designed to give the South’s military a higher profile in the defense of its country, plans call for the relocation of most American troops stationed in and north of Seoul to regional hubs in Daegu and the Pyeongtaek/Osan area -- both of which are south of the capital.