US military may leave troops behind in north Gyeonggi after all

Posted on : 2013-11-26 16:23 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
The so-called ‘trip wire’ policy of leaving troops near the DMZ had been nixed under the Roh administration
 commander of the United Nations Command
commander of the United Nations Command

By Kim Kyu-won, staff reporter

The US military is considering plans for a joint division north of the Han River even after moving its 2nd Infantry Division from north Gyeonggi Province to Pyeongtaek in south Gyeonggi.

Observers likened the idea to the “trip wire” policy that was nixed when the relocation plan was set under the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003-08).

Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and US Forces Korea, talked about the idea during a morning press conference at Yongsan Garrison in Seoul on Nov. 25. “In terms of the residual in what we call Area I [north of the Han River], there may be a need operationally to leave some residual in those areas just for proper defense and response,” Scaparrotti said.

This marks the first time the US military has confirmed the possibility of leaving some residual forces in north Gyeonggi Province even after the relocation.

He added that the examination of turning 2nd ID into a joint South Korea-US division was in its early stages.

“There has been no decision in that area,” he added, referring to the residual and the creation of a joint division.

“I actually haven’t talked to Admiral Choi about this at this point,” he added, referring to Choi Yoon-hee, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A plan was considered last year for canceling the 2nd ID Pyeongtaek relocation and leaving all or some troops to prevent the move from weakening the alliance, but no conclusion was reached.

If the USFK does leave some presence north of the Han River, it would effectively overturn the Roh-era plan to move the forces to Pyeongtaek and discontinue their use as a ‘trip wire.’

Ministry of National Defense spokesman Kim Min-seok said the continued presence of US forces in north Gyeonggi would be “effective in deterring North Korean provocations and beneficial in responding the early stages of war.”

He also said, “This is not the same concept as a ‘trip wire,’ which would automatically bring in USFK in the event of a war on the peninsula.”

The ministry said it may be possible to create a joint division, with some or all of 2nd ID left as a residual north of the Han.

Yonsei University professor Choi Jong-gun said the plan was equivalent to leaving the trip wire in place. “It seems like one of two things: they either view the threat of a North Korean provocation as being that severe, or they want to cut costs by not moving troops to Pyeongtaek,” he said.

Scaparrotti avoided mentioning his previously expressed views on the planned transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea. During his Senate confirmation hearing in July, he said he hoped the transition would go ahead in 2015 as scheduled.

Explaining that he had access to additional and more accurate information after working in South Korea for 60 days, he stressed, “The important part of the OPCON transition was the conditions that had to be met.” He added that he planned to do whatever was necessary regardless of the date decided for the transition.


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