US Forces Korea Moves Headquarters Further from DMZ

U.S. Army soldiers fire cannons during an opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Friday, June 29, 2018. (Newsis via AP)
U.S. Army soldiers fire cannons during an opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Friday, June 29, 2018. (Newsis via AP)

U.S. Forces Korea opened a new headquarters Friday in a long-planned move that is part of the effort to consolidate U.S. troops well south of the Demilitarized Zone.

Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, the Combined U.S.-Republic of Korea Command and the United Nations Command, said at the dedication ceremony that the move to Camp Humphreys, 40 miles south of Seoul, should not be seen as a lessening of the U.S. commitment to defend the peninsula.

Brooks said the $77 million, four-story building, named for the late Army Gen. John Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and one of his predecessors as commander in South Korea, "represents the significant investment in the long-term presence of U.S. forces in Korea," according to news reports.

The opening of the new building in the Pyeongtaek area, south of Osan Air Base, "marks a historic milestone in the history of the United Nations Command, which began in 1950, and the history of the ROK-U.S. alliance," he said, according to reports.

The headquarters for U.S. forces in Korea had been at the Yongsan garrison in Seoul since 1957.

The move is part of a major expansion of Camp Humphreys at an overall cost of roughly $10.8 billion over 10 years, Brooks said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has long complained that allies, including South Korea, have come up short in contributing to mutual defense, but Brooks said the South Koreans are paying for 90 percent of the work at Camp Humphreys.

"My confidence in the service members of USFK is limitless, and I ask for your continued contribution toward an unshakeable combined defense posture," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a message for the dedication ceremony.

With the move to Camp Humphreys, the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea will now primarily be based near South Korea's western coast and at several bases in the Daegu area in the southeast.

The opening of the new headquarters came on the same day the U.S. Senate confirmed retired Adm. Harry Harris, former commander of U.S. Pacific Command, as the new ambassador to South Korea, filling a post that had been vacant since the start of the Trump administration.

In taking the oath of office at the State Department, Harris pledged to maintain the "iron-clad alliance" with South Korea and work toward the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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