US Threatens To Send Fighter Jets Out Of South Korea
The United States has threatened to move its jet fighters out of the Korean peninsula unless Seoul offers a new, exclusive firing range for US airmen within a month, reports said. The warning from Lieutenant General Garry Trexler, deputy head of US troops here, was construed as an ultimatum to South Korea ahead of high-level security talks in Washington next month. South Korean newspapers quoted Trexler as saying in a forum Friday that US pilots in South Korea have gone abroad to conduct firing exercises since their firing range closed in August last year. "I think we are very close in coming to closure on this issue but if it's not done within the next 30 days, we'll be forced to send aircraft which are critical to the deterrence of this peninsula off this peninsula," he was quoted as saying.South Korea promised to build an electronic weapons scoring system for US bombing exercises on Jikdo, 70 kilometers (42 miles) off the southwestern port of Kunsan, but construction has been delayed due to protests over the move. Under a mutual defense pact, South Korea has provided training facilities for some 29,500 US soldiers stationed here to help South Korean troops face up to North Korea's 1.2 million-strong army. "If a nation has a military, that nation has a sacred obligation to ensure that they provide adequate training areas for that military training. That is true for the Republic of Korea military," the US air force commander said.South Korea is in talks with the United States to regain wartime operational control over South Korean troops by 2012, a major change in their alliance which dates back to the 1950-1953 Korean War. South Korea would currently put its troops under the US-led Combined Forces Command if war broke out on the peninsula. The issue has split society between supporters of Roh, who say the transfer is a matter of national pride, and conservative opponents who fear it will weaken defences against North Korea, a self-proclaimed nuclear-armed state.