December 01, 2021 12:12
The U.S. is permanently stationing an attack helicopter squadron and an artillery headquarters in South Korea to deter North Korea, the Pentagon said Monday.
The helicopter squad is currently rotational, and the artillery headquarters was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, Washington.
The decision to station them permanently in South Korea instead is the result of the U.S.' regular Global Posture Review. Overall U.S. troop numbers in South Korea will not increase, but the decision is seen as an effort to boost its presence here as part of America's new cold war against China.
It comes ahead of a visit to Seoul by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The Pentagon said Austin hopes to discuss with South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook the "challenges" posed by China.
The U.S. Defense Department has been reviewing the deployment of American troops around the world since early February at the orders of President Joe Biden. Pentagon official Mara Karlin, told reporters, "Consistent with the secretary's focus on China as our pacing challenge, the priority region for the Global Posture Review was the Indo Pacific."
Singling out Australia and South Korea, she pointed to "additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability, and deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea."
The artillery headquarters in fact already moved to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek in September, while logistics facilities, fuel storage, munitions storage and airfield in Australia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are expected to undergo "infrastructure improvements."
Karlin promised there will be no reduction of the troop presence in South Korea. "On North Korea, of course, we continue to remain concerned about its problematic and irresponsible behavior," she said. "I think we see that our posture in South Korea is robust, and it is effective. And so, I have no changes that we would want to announce at this time on that front. It is a smart, smart posture."
But the U.S. Military Times reported that the Indo-Pacific Command "would like to explore a posture less centered on 'fixed bases in fixed places' -- large presences in Japan and South Korea, for example."
A Pentagon official said in a separate briefing that the latest review includes a directive to slash troop numbers and equipment in other parts of the world but no "major changes."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com