The US on Tuesday said it is to send 800 more soldiers and about 40 Abrams main battle tanks and other armored vehicles to South Korea next month as part of a military rebalance to East Asia after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The battalion of troops and M1A2 tanks and about 40 Bradley fighting vehicles from the First US Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas, will begin a nine-month deployment in South Korea on Feb. 1.
A Pentagon spokesman said the personnel would remain for nine months, but on departing would leave their equipment behind to be used by follow-on rotations of US forces.
“This addition of forces to Korea is part of the rebalance to the Pacific. It’s been long planned and is part of our enduring commitment to security on the Korean Peninsula,” US Army Colonel Steve Warren said.
“This gives the commanders in Korea an additional capacity: two companies of tanks, two companies of Bradleys,” he said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Washington on Tuesday and stated the US position on nuclear weapons in North Korea.
“The United States and the Republic of Korea stand very firmly united, without an inch of daylight between us, not a sliver of daylight, on the subject of opposition to North Korea’s destabilizing nuclear and ballistic missile programs and proliferation activities,” Kerry said.
The US has about 28,000 troops based in South Korea.
The deployment of additional US troops comes at a time of raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea executed the powerful uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month, the biggest upheaval in years in the ruling dynasty.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted military officials as saying that the new US troops would be deployed in North Gyeonggi Province, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
US President Barack Obama announced a strategic rebalancing of US priorities toward the Pacific in late 2011 while ending the direct US military involvement in Iraq and announcing plans to wind down the long US engagement in Afghanistan.
Since the announcement of that so-called “pivot” in foreign, economic and security policy, the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have all seen increased numbers of US warships, planes and personnel.