The US is about to shift 4,000 2nd Infantry Division soldiers from Korea to Iraq, according to a Joongang Ilbo report:
Long-rumored but often denied, plans to send U.S. troops here to Iraq have been confirmed by military and civilian government sources.I guess that depends on whether or not a new base near Pyeongtek is ready for them when they finish their Iraq deployment. The Stryker Brigade, a 2ID unit based in Ft. Lewis, Washington is already in Northern Iraq. That would suggest to my non-military mind that the 2ID troops from Korea would also be deployed in the north for logistical reasons (I hope I'm not too off-base there, somebody correct my assumption if I'm wrong).
A government official said yesterday that a brigade, about 4,000 soldiers, from the U.S. 2d Infantry Division would be sent to the Middle East within the next few weeks. Other officials here confirmed the U.S. plans.
"The U.S. government recently notified our government through diplomatic channels that it has decided to send a brigade to Iraq," the official said. "The two sides are expected to discuss this matter in the near future."
He added that it was not clear whether the brigade would return to Korea after its duty in Iraq or leave Korea permanently. "But with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials continuously mentioning reductions of U.S. troops on the peninsula, it is quite possible that the unit might leave Korea for good," he added.
The article goes on:
A diplomatic source commented that President George W. Bush was expected to raise the subject when he calls Korea's President Roh Moo-hyun to congratulate him on his return to office after a two-month impeachment hiatus. That diplomat also said the U.S. decision was not meant to increase the pressure on Korea to dispatch troops to Iraq, but rather to strengthen U.S. forces in the region before the handover of sovereignty to an interim government there on June 30.It's good to know that Bush is calling Roh. I was starting to wander if the State Department congratulations were going to be all.
UPDATE: Yonhap has some more information on the proposed deployment:
Kim Sook, chief of the Foreign Ministry's North American affairs bureau, confirmed earlier in the day that Washington recently notified Seoul of its intention to redeploy part of USFK to Iraq and said the two countries have just begun talks on the issue. The number of troops and the timing of the deployment has not yet been decided, he said.One good thing to note here is that the New Roh is apparently still committed to following through on Korea's pledge to deploy more troops in Iraq.
President Roh Moo-hyun is also considering convening a meeting of national-security-related ministers in the coming days to discuss the relocation and the planned dispatch of 3,000 South Korean troops to Iraq, the official said.
The official said South Korea is to maintain its position on sending 3,000 troops to Iraq as scheduled, dismissing reports that Seoul may link the South Korean troop dispatch to the USFK relocation.
"We need to come up with measures to prevent the undermining of our defense capabilities, although we are maintaining the policy of sending our troops to Iraq," he said.
Another official, however, would not dismiss the possibility of Seoul discussing relocating part of USFK to Iraq in close connection with Seoul's troop dispatch there, saying "We are not in a position to abandon one to get the other."