U.S. Humphrey Battalion in South Korea
South Korea and the United States held the 201st Joint Committee Meeting of the Agreement on the Status of the U.S. Military in South Korea a few days ago, and reached an agreement on the return of 12 U.S. military bases to South Korea from South Korea.
So far, only 12 of South Korea’s 80 U.S. military bases have yet to be recovered by the South Korean side. According to foreign media reports, due to the serious pollution of heavy metals in the newly returned military bases, it has aroused strong dissatisfaction among the South Korean people. At present, South Korea and the United States have not reached an agreement on the governance cost of the base.
The United States agreed to hand over the base.
According to the latest agreement, the South Korean side will recover five U.S. military bases in South Korea in Longshan District, Seoul City, one in Seoul Central District, three in Gyeonggi Province, and the other three in Daegu City, North Gyeongsang Province and Gangwon Province, respectively. The total area of these 12 military bases is 1.465 million square meters, which is equivalent to half of the area of Ruyi Island in Seoul.
It is reported that the bases transferred to South Korea include the former headquarters of the U.S. military in South Korea, the Longshan Base in downtown Seoul. The base remained the headquarters of the U.S. military in South Korea until September 2018 when it was transferred to Camp Humphrey in Pingsawa.
It is reported that this is the first time that South Korea has recovered part of the land of the Longshan U.S. military base in 2002 and 2004, after South Korea began the return of 80 U.S. military bases in South Korea in accordance with the Joint Land Management Plan and the Longshan Base Relocation Plan respectively. South Korean officials said that after the bases were recycled, most of them would be demolished and the land would be used to build apartments, infectious disease hospitals and Longshan Park.
Pollution exceeding the standard caused protests
According to Yonhap, the inspection results of 12 bases by South Korean military inspection teams showed that 11 bases were seriously contaminated with heavy metals and oil.
South Korean government officials revealed that the two sides have reached a consensus on the return of the 12 facilities, but there are still differences on who will bear the cost of the base’s governance.
Yonhap said that, like the four U.S. military bases returned in December last year, the governance costs will be borne by the South Korean government first, and the specific sharing of the problem will be negotiated with the United States in the future.
The two sides will also consult on clarifying pollution purification responsibilities, strengthening the environmental management of the bases in use, formulating pollution management standards and joint investigation procedures in the event of environmental accidents. The South Korean government will focus on the State Adjustment Office and continue to consult with the United States in coordination with various departments.
It is reported that South Korea intends to use this governance fee as a bargaining chip for negotiating military spending for U.S. troops in South Korea, but the South Korean government denied this claim. South Korean military experts pointed out that this environmental protection treatment fee is not a small amount.
The South Korean government spent 98 billion won (about 167 won) to deal with the pollution of the three U.S. military bases recovered last year. If calculated based on this amount, South Korea may need to pay at least 3494 billion won for the later governance of these 12 bases.
The pollution problem of U.S. military bases in South Korea has aroused strong dissatisfaction among the South Korean people. Some people held protests in front of the South Korean Ministry of Defense.
The intention of the United States needs to be vigilant.
Choi Zhangyu, the first director of the State Adjustment Office of Qingwatai, the South Korean presidential palace, said that the government will comprehensively consider the relocation plan of the U.S. military base in South Korea, the development plan of various local governments, and the consultation with the United States, and is committed to recovering all the land of the Longshan Base and other U.S. military bases in South Korea as soon as possible.
Analysts pointed out that the United States’ agreement to return some bases does not mean that the U.S. military in South Korea really wants to withdraw from South Korea, and the United States considers its own interests between advancing and retreating.
In recent years, the U.S. military has continuously strengthened its military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. Navy recently announced that in order to increase its military strength in the Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. military will reorganize the “First Fleet”. According to the report, the fleet will carry out important tasks in the Asia-Pacific region.
The U.S. military in South Korea closed some bases mainly to save money. The United States previously said that after closing some bases, it will gradually move the bases to the southern part of South Korea with a better geographical location and less missile threat.
Judging from the trend of the U.S. military
U.S. military in South Korea is indeed reducing the strength and unnecessary consumption, but the most critical “THAAD” system and air bases that can deploy F-22 fighters and B-52 strategic bombers are still firmly in the hands of the U.S. military.
Some experts analyzed that there are still 12 bases in South Korea, which are expected to eventually be reduced to five to eight. The U.S. military is likely to send more stealth fighters such as F-22 and F-35 to these bases, equipped with new medium-range ballistic missiles, land-based Aegis air defense systems, etc.
In the future, the United States will also build Japan into a “second-echelon strike position”, which, together with South Korea, will form the U.S. military strike position in the western Pacific Ocean.
For the United States, closing several bases in South Korea is not a big problem, but for South Korea, the meaning is naturally different. As early as two years ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in made it clear that he would withdraw his wartime command in 2023, give the South Korean army “true independence”, and at the same time let all the U.S. military in South Korea withdraw from South Korea.
In addition, the United States has always regarded the overseas military garrison as an important tool to promote hegemony. The U.S. military presence in South Korea is basically not subject to local laws and often acts a misdeed, which has aroused strong protests from the South Korean people. It can be said that the return of several bases by the United States is also to some extent to calm the dissatisfaction of South Korean society and a stopgap measure to temporarily stabilize the Blue House.