US forces in South Korea opened a new headquarters Friday, describing it as Washington’s biggest overseas base, bare weeks after President Donald Trump said he wanted to bring the troops home.
This brings an end to decades of US Forces Korea (USFK) being headquartered in Yongsan, in the centre of Seoul and prime real estate.
The two allies agreed as long ago as 1990 to relocate the headquarters to Camp Humphreys, and after years of delays, the USFK headquarters moved Friday, as did the US-led United Nations Command, under whose flag the allies fought in the Korean War.
The US has 28,500 troops stationed in the South to defend it from the nuclear-armed North, and the move comes only weeks after Trump and Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un had an extraordinary summit in Singapore.
There are uncertainties over the US commitment to South Korean defence, with Trump saying he’d like to ‘bring the troops home’, but USFK commander Vincent Brooks told Friday’s opening ceremony that Seoul had contributed more than 90 percent of the $10.8 billion cost of Camp Humphreys, “which we believe to be the largest overseas US base in the world”.
“Nine zero percent of the costs, and for that nine zero percent, the United States remains with you 100 percent,” he added.
Camp Humphreys incorporates a total of 513 buildings including schools, shops and banks spread over 14.7 million square metres, and will accommodate 43,000 people including soldiers and their family members by the end of 2022.
Despite the well-received summit with Trump, North Korea, which invaded its neighbour in 1950, has yet to make any public pledge to give up its weapons.
But South Korea’s defence minister Song Young-moo said the USFK would embrace a new role as circumstances shifted “from Cold War confrontation to peaceful co-existence” on the Korean peninsula and the Northeast Asia.