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U.S. plans to maintain size of forces in S. Korea despite budget cuts: source

All Headlines 10:06 October 24, 2011

SEOUL, Oct. 24 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. plans to maintain the current size of its forces in South Korea at about 28,500 troops despite pending cuts to defense budgets, a high-ranking government source in Seoul said Monday.

"At official meetings between the two countries this year, officials of the U.S. Department of Defense have repeatedly assured us that the number of U.S. troops stationed here will remain on the same level," the source said. "These U.S. officials said changes to the size of U.S. troops in the Middle East will not affect American soldiers in South Korea."

According to the source, the two allies will likely announce their commitment to maintain the current number of U.S. troops after the upcoming Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) this Friday in Seoul. The SCM is an annual meeting between defense chiefs of Seoul and Washington.

"The U.S. believes expanding its influence in Asia would work for their benefits and the alliance between South Korea and the U.S. has hardly been better ever before," the source added. "At this juncture, the U.S. thinks reducing its troops here will go against its strategy and interests in Asia."

Earlier Monday in Bali, Indonesia, during his Asian swing, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reaffirmed that the U.S. would not cut the number of its troops in Asia and said the U.S. will "remain a strong Pacific force in the 21st century."

The presence of U.S. troops here is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, and has left the two Koreas technically at war with each other.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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