U.S. defends continued military presence in South Korea

08:44, October 29, 2010      

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A senior White House official on Thursday defended continued U.S. military presence in South Korea as necessary, calling it a "cornerstone of stability and prosperity" for U.S. allies.

"We think that the United States military presence in the region has been fundamental to its security and stability," said Ben Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Advisor For strategic Communications. "It's enabled the peaceful rise of multiple powers, it's supported the security of our allies -- Japan and (South) Korea."

He told reporters that the sinking of the Cheonan vessel demonstrates again the essential need for the U.S. to remain engaged, "to send a strong signal that we are not in any way reducing our commitment to the security of our allies or the region."

South Korea's 1,200-ton Cheonan vessel with 104 crew members aboard sank on March 26 near the maritime border with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) after an explosion. Only 58 sailors were rescued.

South Korea issued in May the result of its investigation, which alleged Cheonan was sunk by a DPRK torpedo. The claim was immediately rejected by the DPRK National Defense Commission.

DPRK has long called for U.S. withdrawal of its troops from South Korea, saying U.S. military presence has constituted a major obstacle to the improvement of inter-Korean and DPRK-U.S. relations and the achievement of peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula. The U.S. maintains some 30,000 troops in South Korea.

"I think that military presence is as necessary as it's ever been, it's been a cornerstone of stability and prosperity, and it will continue to be into the future," Rhodes said at a news briefing at the White House on President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to Indonesia, South Korea and Japan which runs from Nov. 9-14.

Jeff Bader, senior director for Asian affairs of the White House National Security Council, said Obama's visit to South Korea and attendance at the G-20 summit held there show that DPRK needs to understand it's going to have to take steps "not only to address our concerns, but South Korea's," and that the U.S. stands "shoulder-to-shoulder" with South Korea.

"North Korea cannot simply take steps toward the United States and think that we will react unless they're addressing the concerns that South Korea has long had and which are even more intense in the way of the sinking of the Cheonan," Bader added.

The senior advisor said the U.S. would welcome and be prepared to pursue a process with DPRK that leads to it having normal relations with its neighbors and the United States, but first DPRK has to demonstrate that it is going to improve its relations with South Korea and show "some sincerity" on the denuclearization issue.

Source: Xinhua


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