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Local gov't concerend over U.S. plan to redeploy military unit

   EUIJEONGBU -- A municipal government expressed concern Sunday over a U.S. plan to redeploy a unit in their region, saying it would undermine a project to replace the U.S. base with a college campus.

   The U.S. Army plans to relocate the 23rd Chemical Battalion from the U.S. state of Washington to Camp Stanley in Euijeongbu, just north of Seoul, by March of next year, an official of the Euijeongbu city government said Sunday.

   The relocation would come nine years after the unit withdrew from South Korea in 2004 as part of an agreement calling for South Korea to take over major missions from the U.S.

   City officials say they are anxiously watching the progress of the  redeployment plan as the city signed a memorandum of understanding in November 2009 with Gyeonggi Province and Seoul's Konkuk University to create a new campus on the site of Camp Stanley, after it is returned to South Korea in 2016.

   The U.S. base currently houses 800 troops, of which about 300 are scheduled to move to Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, by the end of this month, officials said.

   After they move out, the 290-member chemical warfare battalion will replace them, the officials said, but there is no known plan on where the new battalion will be located in 2016.

   City officials said the Defense Ministry told them "The

(redeployment) plan will go as scheduled and the (South Korean) government will consult with pertinent municipal authorities if there is any unavoidable change."

   The Konkuk University's plan to construct a research-oriented "global campus" at the site by 2022 will founder if Camp Stanley is not returned, city officials said.

   "The plan to return U.S. army bases will not alter easily because it's a promise between countries," a city official said, requesting anonymity. "We will continue discussions with the relevant authorities in order not to cause any hitch to the project to construct the university campus."

   The U.S. keeps 28,500 troops in South Korea to help deter North Korean aggression, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the divided Korean Peninsula still technically at war. (Yonhap News)

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