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S. Korean Officials Say Discussions Continuing on US Troop Redeployment - 2004-06-08

One day after the United States proposed a big troop realignment on the Korean peninsula, South Korean officials say the plans are not final and are under discussion.

On Monday the United States advanced a plan to withdraw about one-third of its troops from South Korea and move others away from the front-line on the North Korean border. According to the plan, the troop movements would be complete by the end of next year.

Kim Tae-Woo, a military expert at the South Korean Institute for Defense Analysis, says a quick withdrawal of U. S. troops could upset the delicate balance of power between North and South Korea. "Reduction of U.S. troops should take place according to our schedule to strengthen our own capability to deter North Korea," he says. "If the reduction occurs too quick, then balance will be destroyed."

The Korean National Security Advisor told reporters on Tuesday that the redeployment, its timing, and the specific troops involved are issues still being discussed.

A U.S. State Department spokesman says the realignment will not effect U.S. commitments to South Korea's defense, adding that the moves will help the military better respond to twenty-first century threats.

Mr. Kim says the troop realignment is only one issue between the United States and South Korea. He says of greater importance is the strength of their alliance.

"Everything depends upon what kind of alliance we maintain. If we can recover firm alliance with the United States then even larger size reduction would be okay," he says. "But if the alliance continues to deteriorate then numbers of U.S. soldiers staying here may mean nothing."

North Korea has made no public comment regarding the U.S. military plans.