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Transfer of Defense Articles to the Republic of Korea Letter to the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Senate Majority Leader Transmitting Proposed Legislation.

October 21, 1977

I am transmitting today for the consideration of the Congress legislation which will authorize the transfer of certain United States-owned defense articles to the Republic of Korea. A draft bill and a section by section analysis of its provisions are enclosed.

In the Korean War the independence and security of the Republic of Korea were preserved at a cost of 34,000 American lives and many billions of dollars. Since then, a major objective of United States foreign policy has been the avoidance of renewed hostilities and the maintenance of peace on the Korean peninsula. Our security relationship with the Republic of Korea, which has been the cornerstone of this policy, has consisted of three principal elements--our 1954 Mutual Defense Treaty, a program of military and economic assistance, and the presence of United States Armed Forces in Korea.

Peace and stability in Northeast Asia are vital to our national interests, and stability on the Korean peninsula is essential to that goal. I am determined, therefore, to maintain our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea. However, our security relationship is not a static one, and the specific ways in which we seek to accomplish our basic policy objectives must be evaluated in light of present circumstances.

Within this context, I have concluded that the withdrawal of U.S. ground combat forces from Korea over a four-to-five year period can be accomplished in a manner which will not endanger the security of the Republic of Korea. So long as it is conducted in a way which will assure continued peace and stability in Northeast Asia, the ground force withdrawal is a natural evolution of our ongoing security relationship. Both governments have understood that the presence of U.S. ground forces was not permanent and is related directly to the maintenance of the military balance. With appropriate assistance, such as that included in the legislation I am proposing, the Republic of Korea will be able to assume a larger share of its defense burden and assume the tasks of U.S. units being withdrawn.

I have established a tentative-schedule for the withdrawal of ground combat forces: 6,000 men, including one brigade of the Second Division, will be withdrawn by the end of 1978. The remainder of the ground forces will be withdrawn incrementally with the final withdrawal taking place in 1981 or 1982. U.S. air forces will remain in Korea with a small U.S. Army element to provide communications, intelligence and logistic support to our forces and those of the ROK.

My decision to withdraw U.S. ground combat forces from Korea rests on certain basic considerations:

--Korea s impressive economic growth over the past decade and the corresponding increase in Korea's ability to defend itself;

--our continued firm determination to maintain our basic security commitment to Korea, and to retain a significant military presence there, composed mainly of air and key support units, together with the continuing presence of U.S. naval units in the area; we believe that these forces, as well as the major U.S. forces remaining in the Western Pacific, provide a clear and visible U.S. deterrent to North Korean miscalculation;

--our assessment of the broader international context of the Korea question, particularly the pattern of interrelationships between the great powers in the area;

--our readiness, subject to Congressional consultations and approval, to take appropriate actions to assure that the ground force withdrawal does not weaken Republic of Korea defense capabilities.

The decision to withdraw ground combat forces from Korea has involved full consultations with the Korean Government. The Governments of Japan and other friendly nations in Asia have been kept fully informed, both of our withdrawal intentions and of our continuing firm commitment to Korean security. We have made it clear to both the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union that the withdrawal decision signals no weakening of our commitment. The North Korean Government should be in no doubt about our position.

The legislation I am proposing is designed to help make certain that Korean defense capabilities are not weakened by our ground force withdrawal. It provides for the transfer of certain U.S.-owned military equipment (primarily in the custody of U.S. forces in Korea) and related services to the Korean Government, without reimbursement. We envisage at most the transfer of equipment with a depreciated value of about $800 million.

Even with this no-cost transfer, the withdrawal will require the Korean Government to devote a larger share of its financial resources, both foreign exchange and local currency, to defense. In my judgment, the transfer provided for in the draft legislation will ease the incremental fiscal burden of withdrawal on the Korean Government to an amount which can be borne without diverting excessive resources from the high priority task of economic development.

The bill provides that the President shall transmit an annual report to the Congress, through the five-year period during which the anticipated equipment transfer will take place, detailing the types, quantities and value of defense articles furnished to Korea under this Act.

The transfer of equipment to the Korean Government to be authorized by the bill will ensure that the withdrawal of U.S. ground forces is accomplished in a way that will not disturb the stability that must be maintained in the region. Since the initial phase of that withdrawal will take place in 1978, I urge the Congress to enact promptly the proposed legislation.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Walter F. Mondale President of the Senate, the Honorable Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Honorable Robert G. Byrd, Majority Leader of the Senate.

Jimmy Carter, Transfer of Defense Articles to the Republic of Korea Letter to the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Senate Majority Leader Transmitting Proposed Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/242109

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