The Korea Herald


S. Korea to build barracks for U.S. troops on border island

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 13, 2011 - 19:56

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South Korea plans to build barracks on Baengnyeongdo by 2013 for U.S. troops and others to be augmented in case of a North Korean provocation on the northwestern border island, a military source said Sunday.

Budget bills on the construction of barracks for some 160 troops have been submitted to the National Assembly, according to the source.

The plan was conceived as Seoul is striving to bolster its capabilities to safeguard the five frontline islands with the deployment of more high-tech weapons and military personnel in the wake of last year’s artillery attack on Yeonpyeongdo.

“We plan to build them on the premise that the U.S. personnel will use them. But it is not only for the U.S. troops, but also for any other augmented troops from outside,” a military official told The Korea Herald, declining to be named.

“The budget bills are pending at the parliament. So, we can talk about the details concerning the construction after their passage through it.”

A government official said that the U.S. troops will be swiftly augmented should there be another provocation by the communist state.

“There will be a swift augmentation of the U.S. troops should the North launch provocations around the northwestern border islands,” the official told Yonhap News Agency.

“It is a measure to strengthen our defense for the islands. U.S. troops will also stay at the new barracks during a South Korea-U.S. joint exercise there or when they come to the island during our military’s exercise as observers.”

After North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeongdo that killed two marines and two civilians, how to better defend the five islands of vital strategic value has been one of the key military reform issues.

Since the incident, the allied militaries have closely worked together to come up with joint measures to respond to future provocations.

The U.S. military has since observed South Korea’s live-fire drills there. In July, the allied marines conducted their first joint exercise on Baengnyeongdo. At the time, they shared the barracks with Korean troops.

The two marines are also reportedly discussing issues such as strengthening their joint exercises next year and increasing the frequency of the joint drills.

But a military official said that there is no discussion yet with the U.S over the possible increase in the number of joint marine exercises.

“We may discuss it when the need arises and depending on the cases or situations. But there has not been any detailed discussion yet over that issue,” the official said.

By Song Sang-ho