US - Korea

Chronology from Jan 2008 to Mar 2008

: Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan visits the U.S. and meets Secretary Rice to prepare for the April 15 summit to take place between the presidents.

: U.S. State Department notifies Congress of six arms and defense exports to Korea in 2007, each amounting to $50 million.

: ROK National Security Advisor Byung-kook Kim leaves for Washington to meet National Security Advisor Hadley and Secretary Rice.

: Gen. Bell denies making the statement that ROK will pay $10 billion to relocate U.S. troops.  He claims this was a misunderstanding and that ROK is actually expected to pay W5.59 trillion (approximately $5.75 billion).

: ROK claims that Gen. Bell’s statements to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee claiming that Korea will cover the majority of costs of relocating troops from Seoul are unrealistic and wishful thinking.  The Korean Defense ministry states that the maximum amount paid by ROK will be $4.38 billion.

: President Lee urges farmers to end their opposition to the ROK-U.S. trade agreement in favor of constructive dialogue.  He states that although the government has budgeted $100 billion for rural communities, free trade should be discussed on the part of the farmers.

: Gen. Bell tells the House Appropriations Committee that the ROK has agreed to cover majority of the costs of moving U.S. forces out of Seoul, an approximate cost of $10 billion, also stating that both countries will equally split the costs of relocating the 2nd Infantry Division.

: Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan hold talks in Geneva aimed at breaking the deadlock over North Korea’s nuclear program. Hill describes the discussion as a good consultation. State Department’s head of Korean affairs, Sung Kim, remains in Geneva and has an additional meeting with representatives from North Korea on March, 14.

: Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee talks via phone with his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates to discuss the prioritizing of a cost sharing plan for U.S. troops in Korea. Ambassador Vershbow also visited Lee to further discuss the U.S. position on the issue.

:  Announcement is made that Presidents Lee and Bush will meet at Camp David for a private dinner and summit in mid-April.  This will be the first time that leaders from the U.S. and ROK will meet there instead of the White House.

: Ambassador Alexander Vershbow says the U.S. wants the ROK to assume 50 percent of non-personnel costs for U.S. troops in Korea.  He also expresses the idea of a longer term agreement rather than continuing to renegotiate on an annual basis.

: Assistant Secretary of State Hill meets South Korean counterpart Chun Yung-woo to discuss how to resume the Six-Party Talks.

: The DPRK intensifies its criticism of the joint military exercises between ROK and U.S.

: 27,000 US troops, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, and a number of ROK soldiers begin the military exercises known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle to improve both countries’ combat-readiness.

: President Bush meets 20 experts to discuss a strategy to win ratification of the FTA with ROK amid growing concerns that the agreement may not be ratified.

: The New York Philharmonic Orchestra performs a landmark concert in North Korea. The concert was broadcast live on local television and included the national anthems of both countries, music by two U.S. composers, and a Korean folk song. The visit entailed the largest U.S. presence in North Korea since the end of the Korean War.

: Condoleezza Rice attends the inauguration ceremony of President Lee and confirms the strong alliance between the two countries.

: The chief U.S. negotiator for the FTA repeats the message that the ROK has to open its market to beef imports if Korea wants the U.S. to ratify the agreement.

: A U.S. nuclear-powered submarine arrives in Busan to prepare for the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle Exercise 2008 scheduled for early March.

: Japan, Korea, and the U.S. agree to mobilize their militaries together to handle non-security related matters such as disaster situations.

: President-elect Lee urges President Roh to work closely with the National Assembly to ratify the U.S.-ROK FTA before his term expires.  Lee Hye-min, ROK deputy negotiator for the FTA, states in a radio address that both countries agreed that there will be no additional negotiation of the agreement.

: President-elect Lee names former Ambassador to Japan Yu Myung-hwan as foreign minister and former Defense chief Gen. Lee Sang-hee as defense minister.

: ROK and U.S. sign an agreement to boost cooperation between the countries’ militaries in the information technology sector.  This is done in preparation for the transfer of wartime OPCON of ROK forces so that both militaries will be able to effectively support joint missions.

: U.S. Representative Royce submits a bill to the House to upgrade ROK to the level of NATO +3 member status in the U.S. foreign military sales program.  This will allow ROK to purchase a wider variety of military supplies at a lower price.

: In Hawaii, officials from ROK and the U.S. discuss the handling of U.S. ammunition reserves stored in ROK.  These talks are part of a plan to end the program of stockpiling munitions in Korea.

: Members of the Democratic Labor Party blockade the location where the Parliament was to discuss the U.S.-ROK FTA, forcing the meeting to be postponed.

: President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Lee Suk-haeng begins a four-day trip to the U.S. to discuss joint action with U.S. labor groups to block the ratification of the ROK-U.S. FTA.

: President-elect Lee, in a meeting with 10 members of the New Beginnings Group formed by Stanford University and the Korea Society, including former ambassadors Mike Armacost, Tom Hubbard, and Jack Pritchard, states that the ratification of the FTA would take the U.S.-ROK alliance to a new level of cooperation.

: U.S. Forces, Korea announces plans to reduce its troop level to 25,000 by the end of the year as part of a global plan to reposition U.S. troops.

: Gen. Bell announces plans to extend length of tours for U.S. soldiers from one to three years and increase opportunities for their families to stay in Korea.

: Following a month-long investigation, the Ministry of National Defense states that it aims to complete by 2010 a decontamination process at 18 former U.S. military bases transferred to ROK.

: Korean newspapers report concern that the ROK-US FTA is in danger.

: Commander, U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Timothy Keating states that the transfer of wartime OPCON is very important and the U.S. forces in Korea will remain between 25,000-28,000 troops.

: Gen. Bell states that the U.S. is unwilling to renegotiate the transfer of wartime OPCON of ROK, seeing “no military rationale” to delay the transfer.

: In his State of the Union Address, President Bush urges lawmakers to ratify the FTA with ROK, stating that it will enhance U.S. competitiveness in fast-changing Asian markets and strengthen the alliance between the two countries.

: Kathleen Stephens, advisor at the State Department’s East Asia and Pacific Affairs, is nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to ROK.

: Ministry of National Defense states that ROK and U.S. militaries agree to conduct joint recovery and identification of soldiers’ remains from the Korean War.

: A ROK liaison officer is sent to the US Navy’s 5th fleet in Bahrain to work on better cooperation with the U.S. Navy, and to coordinate protection of ROK citizens, ships, and sailors in the region amidst growing numbers of pirate attacks.

: Chung shows caution over renegotiating the transfer of the wartime military OPCON of ROK troops.  He states that according to some Korea experts he met with in the U.S., the transfer could send the wrong message to the DPRK.  Chung meets with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, but said he will not bring up the transfer first.

: President Bush “drops by” on Chung’s meeting with National Security Advisor Steve Hadley and indicates that bolstering the U.S.-ROK alliance is one of his top priorities and he is anxious for a visit from Lee.

:  Chung Mong-joon, the special envoy of President-elect Lee, arrives in Washington to discuss positions of the incoming government including improvement of bilateral relations, ratification of the FTA, and the ROK’s entry into the U.S. visa waiver program.  Chung also states that the U.S.-ROK relationship has been damaged in the past due to a lack of sincere dialogue and that the new government hopes to rectify this.

: President-elect Lee states that the Combined Forces Command is an important force in providing Northeast Asian security.  He discusses with Gen. Burwell Bell many issues to further improve the ROK-U.S. military alliance and maintain a defense position against the DPRK.

: Ahn Sang-soo, floor leader of the Grand National Party, says the National Assembly has discussed the possibility of ratifying the FTA with the U.S. by the end of February.  Sohn Hak-kyu, the new chairman of the United Democratic New Party, says he would back the agreement if provisions are made to help rural farmers who could be hurt by the agreement.

: The ROK presidential transition committee begins considering whether ROK should be a part of the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative since full participation may affect inter-Korean relations.

: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill states that President Bush plans to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to attend President-elect Lee’s inauguration ceremony in February.

: Korea Herald reports that a U.S. delegation, intent on transferring wartime OPCON of ROK troops in 2012, will meet with Lee’s transition team on Jan. 14 to discuss the issue.  The delegation will be headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia David Sedney.

: President-elect Lee, in a meeting with Assistant Secretary Hill, asks the U.S. to engage in dialogue with the North Korean military leadership to assuage fears of regime collapse.

: Transition team spokesman Lee Dong-gwan states that the scheduled transfer of wartime OPCON of ROK military forces needs to be carefully considered in light of the North Korean nuclear issue.

: U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab says in a teleconference from Las Vegas that the benefits from the ROK-U.S. FTA should not be sacrificed due to some opposition.  She argues that the agreement benefits all Americans.

: President-elect Lee states in a meeting with U.S. experts led by Stephen Solarz that Seoul and Washington should work together to form a stronger alliance.

: ROK Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo says wartime OPCON of ROK troops must be transferred from the U.S. by the agreed April 17, 2012 date, but left open that this transfer may be rescheduled depending on security circumstances in 2012.

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