Thursday, May 12, 2011

US senators want to halt USFK's move to Pyongtaek?

From AFP:
The US military is also looking to consolidate dozens of bases around South Korea into two hubs -- Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Seoul, and Daegu, 300 kilometers (180 miles) southeast of the capital.

The move would allow US forces to leave their huge Yongsan base in Seoul, which was set up for the 1950-53 Korean War but now lies in the heart of the developed and densely populated city, leading to frictions with residents.

But the senators called for a halt, saying there was not enough clarity on who would pick up rising costs at Pyeongtaek where the US military wants to start shifting troops next year.

The senators also questioned the Pentagon's plan to allow more of the 28,500 US troops based in South Korea to bring families.

"There is an inherent contradiction in planning to increase the number of US military family members in South Korea when there is the real potential that a destabilizing security situation in North Korea could unfold rapidly and unpredictably," Webb said.
Honestly, this sounds a bit like some senators are shooting their mouth off because they have to say something.

If one values a US military presence in South Korea (and I definitely am one of them) then they have to go somewhere. But keeping them smack in the middle of the capital is no longer tenable. The move to Pyongtaek has been in motion and it will probably end up costing more in political capital and actual money if it were halted now.

As for Japan, I'm not as certain of the situation there, but I do think it is important for stability in the region for US Forces Japan to maintain a strong presence. They do not need to all be on Okinawa, but moving them all to Guam, a tiny island whose inhabitants are also chafing from the US military dominating much of the territory, is almost a nonstarter.

How about this for a proposal? Much of Japan is losing population, with many parts of the countryside emptying out as people move to the cities for economic opportunities or the elderly die off. Maybe it would be a boon to one or more of these areas if the bases formerly on Okinawa moved nearby. The land is there and there might be some folks who want jobs close to home.

Of course, my plan might be just as full of crap as Senator Webb's.

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