Seoul says USFK should work to stabilize situation
In a major development in US-South Korea ties, United States Forces Korea (USFK) has moved its 73-year old headquarters from prime location in Seoul to a new but largest overseas base, 65 kms south of the capital, spread over 14.6 square kilometers in Pyeongtaek, Gyeoggi province on Frirday.
According to Seoul based The Korea Times, hundreds of ranking military officials from Seoul and Washington participated in the relocation ceremony.
Vincent Brooks, the USFK commander general, while addressing the ceremony, pledged to tighten Seoul-Washington security alliance and said, “With a mandate to restore peace, security and defence of the Republic of Korea, the USFK will remain the living proof of the American commitment to the alliance. Our relationships and histories are intertwined and they are strong enough to support this separation.”
South Korea’s Minister of National Defence Song Young-moo praised the USFK for helping to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula. He also emphasised on the need to maintain strong alliance for the common goal of the denuclearization of North Korea.
Song said, “The Korean Peninsula is at a turning point from a violent post-war confrontation to peace. North Korea’s nuclear weapons should be scrapped for good and the two Koreas will open up a new era of exchanges and cooperation. All the achievements are the result of the Seoul-Washington alliance.” He urged U.S. soldiers to have a sense of the new mindset to be in line with the new peace era.
Reuters reports that USFK commander general also announced that South Korea has shouldered nearly all the coast of building the largest US overseas military base. He said, “This was a project that cost nearly $10.8 billion to build over 10 years and the Republic of Korea investment was over 90 percent of the cost.”
Expressing US full support to the South Korea, the USFK commander general further said, “For that 90 percent, the United States remains with you 100 percent.”
The South Korean Minister, while describing the changing priority with the new scenario, said, “The USFK and United Nations Command soldiers, who will serve their military duty at this new headquarters, should be aware that their new mission is to contribute to world peace as a stabilizer in Northeast Asia.”
The U.S. military has been stationed in South Korea since September 1945 when it dispatched troops with a mission to disband remaining Japanese armed forces after they surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945.
The USFK, however, had to continue to stay in the wake of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War. In 1953, Seoul and Washington signed a defence treaty to legalize status of the US forces stationed in Yongsan Garrison, central Seoul.
The Yongsan district has since been home to U.S. troops in South Korea and served as a symbol of the Seoul-Washington military alliance.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has appreciated USFK for serving as a cornerstone and future of the alliance between the two countries. “The solid Seoul-Washington alliance has played a critical role as strong war deterrence on the peninsula, helping the two countries to successfully hold summits with North Korea,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stressed, since his election campaign in 2016 office, that Seoul should burden more of the expenses needed for the upkeep of some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.
The shifting of US base in South Korea has taken place at a time when the leaders of two Koreas held two summits in demilitarized areas with a very short span of time. Their historical meetings were followed by a landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore.