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New home for USFK

June 29,2018
The headquarters of the United States Forces in South Korea (USFK) has been relocated to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, after 64 years in Yongsan, central Seoul. The USFK holds an opening ceremony today at a new base there attended by Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of the USFK, Combined Forces Command (CFC) and the United Nations Command (UNC), and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo.

Yongsan has a tragic history. It was used as a logistics base for Mongolian troops when they invaded the Korean Peninsula in the 13th century and also as a base for the troops of the Qing Dynasty and Japan in the turbulent 17th and 19th centuries. But the Pyeongtaek base was built with farsighted goals: allowing the decades-old Korea-U.S. alliance to brace for an unpredictable future of Northeast Asia in the 21st century.

It is the largest U.S. military base built on 3.45 million square meters (853 acres) of land on which a total of 513 buildings are erected. The complex can serve as a multi-purpose base for the Army, Navy and Air Force thanks to its proximity to the U.S. Air Force base in Osan, Gyeonggi, and South Korea’s second fleet in Pyeongtaek harbor.

In these respects, the new base can play a strategic role in striking a military and security balance in Northeast Asia for the 21st century. It is expected to serve a critical mission of contributing to a peaceful reunification process on the peninsula and at the same time containing China’s ever-growing influence in the region. We hope the Korea-U.S. alliance advances further thanks to the establishment of the base in Pyeongtaek.

However, public concerns are deepening over the possibility of U.S. forces withdrawing from South Korea in the process of negotiating the denuclearization of North Korea and dismantling the last remaining post-Cold War structure in the peninsula. We also worry about any weakening of the alliance. If our government hastily pushes for the transfer of wartime operational control back to our military, the CFC cannot but be disbanded. Fortunately, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on a trip to Seoul on Thursday that Uncle Sam will maintain the current level of U.S. forces in South Korea.

Nevertheless, our government must find effective ways to not weaken the solidity of the Korea-U.S. alliance, as suggested by Mattis’ remarks that there is not even a one-millimeter gap between the alliance. The government should not make the mistake of shaking the combined forces system before North Korea completely scraps its nuclear weapons. We urge the Moon Jae-in administration to not forget that this is not just a military alliance, but also a sharing of values and economic benefits.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 29, Page 30