Tracking Number: 133329
Title: "US Troops in Korea Defend only the Peninsula." Article on interview of Assistant Secretary of State Richard Solomon. (900323)
Author: MORSE, JANE A (USIA STAFF WRITER)
03/23/90 * U.S. TROOPS IN KOREA DEFEND ONLY THE PENINSULA (Article on USIA interview with AS Richard Solomon) (710) By Jane A. Morse USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- Although the security of Korea has broad implications for the rest of Northeast Asia, American troops stationed in the Republic of Korea (ROK) are there only to protect the peninsula and not to serve U.S. regional interests, according to Richard Solomon, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
During an interview with USIA March 20, Solomon said: "Our military posture in Korea is designed exclusively to deal with the threat from North Korea. The forces there are tailored to respond to the North Korean threat. They are not designed to respond to developments elsewhere. But we are very conscious of the fact that the security and stability of Korea does have this broader effect on the security situation in Northeast Asia."
The interests of four major powers -- the Soviet Union, Japan, China, and the United States -- intersect at the Korean peninsula, he explained. "So any development on the Korean peninsula will have, (and) has had, significant effect on the interests of all these countries...and on a sense of regional stability," he said.
In the future, the American military presence in South Korea will play an increasingly supportive role to the ROK military forces, Solomon said.
"We've been looking for new adjustments in the command relationships in Korea so that the Republic of Korea can take more of a leadership role, and the United States, over time, will gradually play more of a supporting role in defense on the peninsula," he said.
American troop reductions in Korea -- anticipated to number at around 2,000 -- were carefully planned taking into account ROK concerns and the continuing threat from North Korea, he said. U.S. troop reductions will occur mostly in support staff, Solomon explained, and will not "diminish at all the combat capability of our forces."
The proposed closings of five American air bases in Korea were similarly planned in close, orderly consultation with ROK officials, he said. "I and other officials have been letting our Korean counterparts know that some adjustments were coming, and we have been trading ideas with them about, for example, what we, in technical terms, call the roles and missions that our respective military forces play," Solomon said.
The American cutbacks in Korea are part of a larger U.S. effort to reduce military spending. Some 126 American bases located both within the United States and abroad may be closed for economic reasons.
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Solomon noted that the purpose of Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney's February trip to Korea, Japan and the Philippines was "to explain, in broad-brush terms, what the fairly modest adjustment in our defense posture in the region is all about, and to consult on some specifics."
He added that the process of consultation and adjustment in Korea "will continue at a measured pace because the United States is firmly committed to the security of the Republic of Korea, and the threat from the North has not diminished. So we will continue those consultations and the adjustments, for example, in the relocation of the U.S. military facilities at Yongsan in central Seoul and the development of other facilities."
When asked about the U.S.-Korea trade relationship, Solomon said there have been "some significant improvements" in the last year or two.
"There's been a significant improvement in the trade imbalance," he noted. "Our trade deficit with Korea recently dropped by 2,600 million dollars, down from 8,800 million dollars in 1988, to 1989 when it was 6,200 million dollars. At the same time our bilateral volume of trade with the Republic of Korea grew by 6 percent. Much of this lower trade deficit was due to increased U.S. exports.
"So, given this fact, as well as the fact that we reached some important agreements on the Super 301 cases, on intellectual property rights protection, and on driftnet fishing, we think we've made some significant progress this past year, and we look forward to further progress in the year or two to come," Solomon said. NNNN
File Identification: 03/23/90, EP-505
Product Name: Wireless File
Product Code: WF
Keywords: SOLOMON, RICHARD/Policy; KOREA (SOUTH)-US RELATIONS/Policy; FORCE & TROOP LEVELS/Policy; KOREA (NORTH)-KOREA (SOUTH) RELATIONS
Thematic Codes: 1EA
Target Areas: EA
PDQ Text Link: 133329