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radical lang exchang   am.11:03, Saturday ( 1026hit )
Pyeongtaek base expansion is part of aggressive transformation of US military strategy

Around the same time that the Pyeongtaek base expansion plan became public, the closing of a major US Army base at Yongsan, in the heart of Seoul, was also announced. Critics denounced the base shuffle as an element of the Global Posture Review (GPR), a shift in US military strategy that would transform the US Forces in Korea into a more aggressive, rapidly deployable force for the entire Asia-Pacific region (see The South Korean government has repeatedly asserted that the transfer of the US Army from Yongsan had nothing to do with the GPR. Yet new information shows that in fact the South Korean Ministry of National Defense knew all along that the transfer had been driven by the GPR.

The document "Question and Answer about the Agreement on the Transfer of the USA Army from Younsan and the LPP (Land Partnership Plan) Revision" (July 23, 2004), obtained by People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, elucidates that "the transfer of Yongsan Camp into the central integrated base in the Osan and Pyeongtaek regions is a part of the GPR pursued by the US government."

In the document, drawn up when the practical negotiations about the transfer of Yongsan Camp were already completed and just before the Parliament approved the agreement, the Ministry of National Defense explains that, "Though we have explained our position in a variety of ways, including parliamentary committee, meetings for policy explanation, social meetings, response by mail etc.,  there are still many doubts. This Question and Answer document should help clarify the various doubts that have been raised until now."

In the section in the document titled “The background of the impetus for the Yongsan base transfer"(p.4), they repeat the already established claims that the closing of the Yongsan base, "responds to the wishes of those who want the relocation of the foreign troops now stationed in the middle of Seoul... In March in 1988 the USFK started an investigation into the transfer of the US bases that are in the middle of Seoul, including the Yongsan base, in order to create conditions for stable stationing and the strengthening of the Korean-US alliance.” Yet, in another clause titled "Why the US side wants the transfer"(p.6)), it says, "the transfer of the Yongsan base to the central integrated base in the Osan-Pyeongtaek region is a part of the Global Posture Review (GPR) pursued by the US government."

Afterwards, the government, in the National Assembly inquiry and in the public information reported to the people, persisted in saying that “the Yongsan base transfer is a matter that was requested by the Korean side from the time of the previous government, and is not related to the USFK relocation plan”. In short, even though the government clearly knew that there was a connection between the Yongsan base transfer and the GPR, and also was aware of this while it was conducting negotiations, it gave false information to the National Assembly and to the people in order to justify the unreasonable  results of the negotiations.

When faced with the ratification process in the National Assembly in December 2004, and in reply to queries about speeches made in the National Assembly, the government has consistently maintained that there is no connection between the Yongsan base transfer and the GPR. On December 6,  2004, Cha Yeong-ku, the negotiating representative for the Korean side at the FOTA meeting (Future Korean-US Alliance Policy Initiatives), made a speech at a public hearing sponsored by the Committee On Unification, Foreign Policy, and Trade. Cha insisted that “Linking the Yongsan base transfer with the GPR is really the utmost nonsense. The GPR is a general concept for future interventions, as the idea of future war changes. How can you connect that with the Yongsan base?”

Furthermore, on 7 December, Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Yeong-jin made clear in a reply to the National Assembly Committee on Unification, Foreign Policy, and Trade that, “Putting together the GPR and the Yongsan base transfer is very unreasonable. The US side wanted to keep the Yongsan base as it was until the last minute. The connection with the GRP is wrong on two points. It does not correspond to the facts: not only was it late in terms of time, but also the US side wanted to keep the Yongsan base headquarters up to the very end.”

However, that kind of claim simply confirms the fact that the Yongsan base transfer is inseparably linked with the GPR. In June, Richard P. Lawless, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Asia-Pacific Affairs and the US negotiating representative, made it clear in an interview on Korean national radio that, “If the USFK are transferred to the south of the Han River and integrated with the Osan-Pyeongtaek hub, then the military’s efficiency will be enhanced. So it’s important to arrange the Osan-Pyeongtaek hub in an orderly fashion. In connection with the problem of the Yongsan base transfer, from the Korean view, the US was perceived as the chief one who caused the delay of the transfer agreement but in fact it was the Korean government that wanted the alliance headquarters and the UN headquarters to be left at Yongsan”, and suggested that he sees the Yongsan base transfer as a link in the reorganization of the USFK.

The document which PSPD obtained confirms similar facts. It says “the US side proposed the transfer of the alliance headquarters on the basis of the military point of view... but it was not the private plan of the US independently to decide on the transfer, since the headquarters are jointly managed by equal numbers of Koreans and Americans." It makes clear that Korea was the one that suggested leaving these at Yongsan and it was the US that wanted to transfer them completely.

Actually, the GPR has been promoted since the 1980s. Formalizing it officially with the title "Global Posture Review" came after 2001, and it was in November, 2003 that it was made public. However, the government made an effort to divide the transfer of the Yongsan garrison and the general relocation of the USFK bases, and denied any relationship between them. The fact that the Korean government insisted that the Yongsan base transfer and USFK relocation are separate issues confirmed once again that they told “lies” or else “deliberately ignored” facts, in order to avoid censure for their unequal and humiliating compliance with the US side’s demand that Korea must bear the full amount of the transfer expenses.

Consequently, as the National Assembly already promised to the nation, they must re-examine the various doubts and problems that surround the agreement on the Yongsan US base transfer and the revised Land Partnership Plan agreement, and must undertake an investigation of the negotiations for the unequal agreement on base transfer, which were conducted in secret.

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