05/17/2004, 00.00
south korea
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US to redeploy South Korea-based troops to Iraq

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The United States has informed Seoul that it plans to redeploy a contingent of US troops from South Korea to Iraq, "because the U.S. needs more manpower for strong pacification operations ahead of the scheduled June 30 transfer of sovereignty in Iraq". A South-Korean newspaper, the Joongang Ilbo, reported the news, quoting a government official saying that a brigade from USFK's 2nd Infantry Division (about 4,000 men), based in Dongducheon (Gyeonggi Province), close to the border with North Korea, will be sent to Iraq. The news was confirmed by Kim Sook, head of the South-Korean foreign ministry's North American affairs bureau who said that Seoul was recently notified of the decision and talks between South Korea and US are at an early stage. According to the official source quoted, "it's uncertain whether the brigade will return to Korea after things have settled down in Iraq or will be sent to another location... High-ranking U.S. officials including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have persistently raised the issue of USFK reductions, so we cannot rule out that the brigade may be permanently removed from the Korean Peninsula". About the time of deployment, the Joongang Ilbo quoted the official as saying, "The U.S. said it would send them in 'several weeks' without giving a specific date... Therefore, it seems they will leave for Iraq in mid-June". (MR)


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