November 14, 2007 09:48
The long-delayed ground-breaking ceremony for the new U.S. military headquarters in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, was held on Tuesday afternoon. The event was attended by Korean Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo, U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Burwell Bell, other military leaders and some 1,200 Pyeongtaek residents. Construction work to bring USFK bases together on one site finally began 20 years after then presidential candidate Roh Tae-woo included the relocation of the military base in Yongsan, central Seoul, among his campaign promises in 1987.
The relocation of U.S. bases to Pyeongtaek has faced violent opposition from residents and professional activists. Korean and U.S. officials called the moment a “historic event.” Bell in a speech said ground-breaking day heralded a stronger alliance between Korea and the U.S. in the future. He stressed that Pyeongtaek will serve as the operational center of U.S. bases.
Some activists and 150 residents staged a rally against the event in nearby Paengseong village. But the head of an umbrella body of Pyeongtaek civic organizations said construction work is a state project and both the city and the nation will benefit from the project only when it moves forward smoothly.
The construction of the Pyeongtaek base will be completed in three stages by late 2012.
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