8th Army commander: N. Korean threat changes timelines for US moves
SEOUL, South Korea — The increasing threat from North Korea means decisions about moving U.S. forces away from the front lines and transferring operational control to the South must be driven by conditions, not timelines, the Eighth Army commander says.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal said the much-delayed relocation of the bulk of U.S. forces in Korea to regional hubs south of Seoul is finally on track, with most major units expected to be in place by early 2018.
But the 210th Field Artillery Brigade will remain near the heavily militarized border with North Korea for the foreseeable future. The Combined Forces Command and USFK headquarters also will maintain a residual force at the Yongsan U.S. Army Garrison in Seoul.
“Right now it’s conditions-based moves,” Vandal said in an interview Thursday with Stars and Stripes at his office at the military’s headquarters in a stately building known as the White House on Yongsan. “That is because of the criticality of having the counter-fire capabilities to the north.”
Vandal, who is also the chief of staff for USFK and the Combined Forces Command, said the artillery brigade and supporting forces will remain at Camp Casey at least until 2020 according to an agreement with the South Korean government, but the trigger for the move will rely on the ability of the South Korean military to fully take over the positions.
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