S. Korea: No Permanent U.S. Presence at New Naval Base

Posted October 5th, 2011 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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A top South Korean naval commander says a proposed naval base on an island popular with East Asian tourists will not become a permanent base for U.S. warships.

Rear Admiral Koo Ok-hyoe, speaking Wednesday in Seoul, said the U.S. Navy and other friendly foreign militaries will be welcome as visitors to the port on Jeju Island but will not be allowed permanent anchorage. The base is set to open in 2015.

Officials at Wednesday's briefing for foreign correspondents also rejected claims by opponents of the base that the facility will house a U.S. missile defense system. They did not offer details of how the base will be utilized, but said it is intended to help defend against any aggressive actions by North Korea and should not be seen as a threat to other nations.

Some island residents and outside critics say they fear the base — in a place designated by Seoul as the “island of world peace” — will militarize the resort island and damage the environment.

Authorities also declined comment Wednesday on reports that South Korea plans to construct a small naval base on another island, known as Ulleung, located in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan. Advocates say such a base is needed to protect a nearby tiny island claimed by both South Korea and Japan.