Seoul’s push for early return of U.S. bases has nothing to do with other matters: foreign ministry

SEOUL-- South Korea's push for an early return of more than two dozen American military bases has nothing to do with other matters, a foreign ministry official said Monday, spurning concerns that it signals a possible rift in the alliance.

On Friday, the presidential official Cheong Wa Dae said it will redouble efforts for an early return of 26 United States Forces Korea (USFK) bases, citing the result of a meeting by its National Security Council (NSC).

The USFK has been moving its bases nationwide, mainly to a refurbished garrison in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, named Camp Humphreys.

Friday's announcement, however, has sparked worries over a possible rupture in the Seoul-Washington alliance as it came amid Washington's growing public criticism of Seoul for ending a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement or GSOMIA.

"(The return of the U.S. bases) is a matter that Seoul and Washington have been discussing for a long time as the relocation is nearing its completion," a foreign ministry official said.

"It is not appropriate to add any political meaning to such a plan by relating it to other diplomatic and security issues such as the GSOMIA termination."

The official added that the government will make efforts to devise various measures so that it can lead to the implementation of long-pending agreements.

The process of South Korea regaining the sites of the affected bases has been going slowly, partly due to the handling of polluted ground.

Top security officials in Seoul have said the government will first seek the return of four bases at the earliest possible date. They are Camp Long and Camp Eagle in Wonju, Gangwon Province, as well as Camp Market in Incheon and Camp Hovey in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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