|2005.09.09 02:03||2005.09.09 02:03 | Green Society|
1. US Military Hegemony and Strategic Transformations
The US Armed Forces after the Cold War persue deterrence in Eastern Asia, military strategy for swift victory under outbreaks of war and Asia-centered military strategy, which defines China as a potential threat. This shows that the US Forces are focusing on Northeast Asia more than ever. To achieve this, US forces are undergoing military transformation into rapid reaction forces equipped with advanced weapons and capacity to handle network wars of the 21st century and continue the US military hegemony in the future.
To maximize the effect of the military transformation, the US forces are promoting the GPR (the Global Posture Review), which claims that relocating overseas bases in Europe and Northeast Asia must be done to maximize swift mobility.
2. US Military Relocation in the Asia-Pacific Region
With the planned relocation, the ultimate object of the US Armed Forces, stationed in Korea, is changing from defending South Korea from North Korea to gaining rapid mobility for the defense of the Asia-Pacific region and blocking China. Under the deceptive concept of strategic flexibility, Korea-US negotiations are done in secret so the danger of US military relocation cannot be recognized by citizens.
Table 1. Changes with US Forces Korea
Range of activity
Republic of Korea
Fixed-post ground forces
Navy/air mobile forces
Last June, the US 2nd Infantry Division has completed its transformation into a Unit of Employment X (UEX), a unit sized between a corps and a division. The transformation gave the 2nd Infantry Division greater flexibility and fire power, equipped with state-of-art weapons systems centered on C4I, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Abrams (AIM) tanks, and M270A1 Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Under its broader military transformation plan, the US military is creating three new unit of action (UA), unit of employment X (UEX) and unit of employment Y (UEY)to replace the current fourthe brigade, division, corps and army. The 1st Brigade under the Division was transformed into a Unit of Action (UA), which became two to three times more powerful than before. The 8th Army will be also transformed into a Unit of Employment Y (UEY), a higher level unit than UEX, by the end of this year.
Besides, the US is planning to establish the first overseas air combat command in the Asia-Pacific region, Northeast Asian Air combat Command, by transforming the 7th Air Force based in the K-55 Airstrip in January next year. This series of changes will bring rapid mobility and greater agility to the US Armed Forces.
2) Relocation and Reduction
In accordance to the GPR, the US Forces Korea is scheduled for relocation to Pyeongtaek, Daejeon and Busan by the year 2008. Accordingly, the Yongsan Army Garrison and the 2nd Infantry Division are moving to Pyeongtaek, where they have an air base and a naval port to serve a good military post for rapid reaction forces. In the process, the 37,000 US Forces Korea will be reduced to 25,000.
3) Relocation of US Forces, Transfer of Missions, Reduction of Forces
According to the agreement last year, Korea and US have decided to relocate Yongsan Army Garrison and the 2nd Infantry Division to Pyeongtaek and transfer 10defense missions of US forces to Korean military. During this process, missions including guarding the joint security area at Panmunjeom and counter-fire battles would be transferred and the cost is an estimate of 118.7 billion won. Also, by 2008, 12500 US forces will be reduced.
Due to the relocation, 3490 thousand pyeong(=3.058㎡) of new base would be constructed. 4570thousand pyeong of US military base is already stationed in Pyeongtaek but the military is expanding to build a larger base. The reason for Yongsan Army Garrison and the 2nd Infantry Division for moving to Pyeongtaek, is becuase they would have an air base and a naval port to serve a good military post for rapid reaction forces.
4) Capacity Building of the Combined Forces
By 2006 the US is spending 11 billion dollars to improve 150 parts of the ROK-US Combined Forces. This money, which is about seven to eight times of North Korea's military budget for a year, will either maintain or buy new Apache Longbow helicopters, Patriot missiles (PAC-3), M1 tanks and improve C4I (Consultation, Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) systems.
The US has also arranged for immediate take-off within 24 hours with the Theater Support Vessel (TSV), which can carry a striker brigade and fly from Okinawa to the peninsula within one day, and the C-17 Globemaster, the most essential carrier for striker brigade, which can fly from the US to the peninsula in 11 hours without any additional oil supply on the way.
In accordance, the US expects South Korea to increaseits military expenditure and buy their weapons. Cooperative self-reliant national defence is the way South Korea complies with the US request, buying new weapons apt for the new strategies
5) Legal Aspects of US Forces Korea's Expansion
Taking advantage of high-level meetings between governments, ROK-US Security Policy Initiative (SPI) meetings and strategic flexibility meetings, South Korea and the US are putting efforts to discuss legislation regarding the ongoing changes. It is to gain legitimacy and justification for the expansion of the Combined Forces' duties. By giving new interpretation of the SOFA, the two countries are up to make a joint security declaration that will allow expanding the role of the Combined Forces and changing the operational control authority as well.
In addition, the ruling party is pursuing for the overseas dispatch bill, which allows overseas dispatch of the Korean forces in case of the UN peace keeping operations (PKO) and emergency relief without the national assembly's consent. The bill, however, does not comply with the five principles of the PKO agreement among the parties to armed conflict, impartiality, limited use of weapons and does not have any persuasive reasons for leaving out the assembly's consent. The bill is only believed to support the expansion of the Combined Forces and the transition to an aggressive alliance.
3. Problems with US Base Expansion in Pyeongtaek
1) Threat to Peace of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia and the permanent stay of US Forces
When based in Pyeongtaek, the US Forces can escape from North Korea's shooting range, which, combined with its advanced weaponry and increased mobility taking advantage of the K-55 Airstrip (Songtan)and the naval port, makes it easier for the US to attack North Korea and contain China. It becomes also able to dispatch forces out of Korea in the Asia-Pacific region, making Korea a US outpost ready for aggressive wars.
Such intention is proven in ample evidences including the statement from the US delegation at the first meeting of the South Korea-US Future of the Alliance (FOTA) in April 2003 that the current disposition of the 2nd Infantry Division is not suitable for war execution; the Korean delegation's preparation materials for the third FOTA meeting, which refer to the chances of US intervention in China-Taiwan conflict or conflicts between potential regional hegemonies such as China and other countries in the region; and the statement by William Fallon, US Pacific Commander, at the US Senate Armed Services Committee on March 8, 2005 that the US Forces will increase mobility in the Asia-Pacific region in the near term.
Military tension and conflicts will be increased around the Peninsula, accordingly, which may put Korea right in the middle of a war the US wages and its consequences in the worst case.
The relocation is also an effort to seek for a stable post where the US Forces can be stationed as long as they wish. The Yongsan Base, located right in the middle of Seoul, is considered to encourage anti-American sentiment among people in Korea. Naturally, a new base in Pyeongtaek would enhance stability in the eyes of the US Forces.
Building environment of long-term stability for the US Forces has been on the agenda for the relocation negotiation. The Yongsan Relocation Agreement also states that a timely relocation would contribute to an enduring structure of the US Forces Korea. The US Forces made it included in the Agreement that the new base would be equipped with enhanced facilities, based on which they are now demanding the most advanced facilities.
2) Threat to the residents' right to live and the violation of human rights
After the relocation of US Forces, the base would be expanded by 640thousand pyeong in Seotan region and 28.5 million pyeong in Pangsung region. In the scheduled expansion area, lives 535 households and 1372 residents. The US army base and US air force base is already stationed in this area.
In 2003, the media reported the discussion between the Korean government and US Forces regarding the relocation of Yongsan Army Garrison and the 2nd Infantry Division to Pyeongtaek. The residents wanted to confirm the facts, however no government officials or Pyeongtaek city officials would confront the residents nor listen to them. In the process of discussion government excluded the residents' opinion, and only after the agreement had already passed the legislature did the government tried to hold a conference.
The US army stationed in the Pangsung region is on the land where the farmers ( the residents) filled the sea with tremendous amount of labor. The only job done by the government was assessing a tax. Now, however, the government is trying to seize their property under " national security." Giving the rich land that will provide quality rice to the US military base is equivalent to giving their child away, so the farmers have organized 미군기지확장반대 팽성대책위원회 and have been fighting fiercely.
The situation of Daechu region shows how the resident's life is being torn down. Daechu region used to be where US army is currently stationed. When Japanese army retreated, US army kicked the residents out to expand their base. Therefore another expansion plan caused indignation among elderly residents who will lose there home once again.
The residents have been enduring noise pollution, environmental pollution, military crimes for the past decades. However, now that the US Forces demand the residents to submit their house and land, there is a heavy opposition movement among residents. To settle this opposition, the Korean government is offering to provide compensation for the residents and the city of Pyeongtaek, but the compensation is not enough to maintain current living standards. In addition, after the expansion military facilities in Pyeongtaek will increase dramatically, and the danger of wartime will buid up, so depite the governments support the economy and the development of the city will face serious problems and the residents will suffer from military crimes and educational, environmental and cultural damage.
Due to the relocation process the frequency of take-offs and landings have increased so the residents are suffering from heavy noise pollution. On top of this some helicopters fly at 11 pm or even midnight, the residents in the region is suffering from lack of sleep. The expansion will threaten the lives of the residents.
The public officials and the police are violating even the basic human rights of the residents because the expansion is part of a national policy and is indispensible. An officer from the Ministry of National Defense would disclose his identity to the residents. The police inspected the town without proper uniforms. and overnight, they snatched away the rocks that the residents have gathered for a town event. The Ministry of National Defense tried to conduct compensation conference without informing the residents beforehand, which resulted in physical conflict with the residents. During these conflicts the police took the residents to the police station, committed violence and used abusive language without formal uniforms.
These kinds of human rights violation originates from the public officials's arrogant attitude that the expansion process is for "National Security" related to "US Forces" For them, the residents of the region are not a respect citizen whose rights deserve to be protected, but only a subject that should be expelled from the town.
3) Unfair Cost Sharing
While the military relocation is executed in accordance to the military transformation represented by the GPR, most of the cost occurred from the relocation will be covered by the Korean government. Korea is responsible for all the costs occurred in purchasing land requirements, designing, construction and equipments as well as for the cost of moving, and the forces' lodging and allowances during the period. It is stated in the agreement that because Korean government demanded the relocation of Yongsan base Korean government is responsible for all the costs. However, because the exact amount is not stated it is an unfair agreement where Korean government will have to pay whatever the US military demands. Also, the relocated facilities are required to be built with improved functions. Furthermore, the fact that the relocation was demanded by the US due to the military transformation was completely disregarded
The revised Land Partnership Plan (LPP) requires the US government to cover the 2nd Infantry Division's cost of moving. Precedents and the US documents predict, however, the opposite.
Overall, the relocation negotiation is against the Constitution and unfairly desirable to the US interests. Otherwise, the US State Department did not evaluate the relocation negotiations above target.
4. Significances and Challenges of Anti-US Base Expansion Movement
1) Secure Peace in Northeast Asia and Block military transformation into Asia-Pacific mobile forces
The US is concentrating its efforts to build rapid mobility in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea and the US have come to agreements for the purpose through the FOTA meetings and taking advantage of high-level meetings between governments, ROK-US Security Policy Initiative (SPI) meetings and strategic flexibility meetings, South Korea and the US are putting efforts to discuss legislation regarding the ongoing changes.
Neighboring countries would not seat and watch the US expanding its military bases in the region. North Korea has already test-fired a missile with a shooting range over 100km, which is assumed to have targeted Pyeongtaek. China expressed concerns on being targeted by the US Forces Korea. The US aggressiveness in Pyeongtaek would increase tensions and threats of war in the Peninsula and in the region. In this sense, the opposition of expansion of military base in Pyeongtaek is not only for Pyeongtaek residents only, but for the peace in the region.
2) Save the living rights and the community of Pyeongtaek residents
To farmers, land is life itself and it is especially so to the residents of 60s and 70s in Pyeongtaek who are too old to start a new life. Thus, depriving land from the residents is depriving them of right to life.
Pyeongtaek is a community that has maintained the tradition of helping each other. In its effort to persuade the residents, however, the government has come in between and antagonism and distrust has slit the community into pieces. Our struggle, in this respect, is to protect the right to life and the community.
The residents have been fighting everyday against the government's unilateral land expropriation policy since last September 1st, by candlelight movement. Joining this fight is consolidating our security and peace and protecting our future.
Since the Peace March against Pyeongtaek military expansion and for Peace in Korean peninsula on July 10th, numerous individuals and organizations are making a base-pilgrimage to Pyeongtaek. Currently, the residents and 범대위 is preparing a festival for the prevention of military expansion on December 11th. We pursue the support and collaboration of many people to fill the Hwangsaewool field with the yellow flags that stands for the opposition of military expansion and we will unite our effort with other international peace movements to fight against US military forces.
Head,Policy Subcommittee, PKC
(Pan-Korean Committee against US Base Extension to Pyong-Taek)