Published June 1977 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Korea During the recent consideration of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the Senate narrowly avoided a repudiation of the President's plan to withdraw U.S. ground troops from Korea over a period of four to five years. Such a repudiation would have resulted from the almost certain adoption of a motion by Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker to strike from the bill the committee language affirming the President's announced policy of withdrawal. Instead, the S e n a t e adopted my substitute amendment which stated that any implementation of the President's withdrawal policy be carried out in consultation with the governments of South Korea and Japan and that such a phased and gradual reduction of U.S. ground forces be implemented in a way that is consistent with the security interests of South Korea, Japan and the United States. My amendment also clearly provided that any implementation of t h e President's planned withdrawal be carried out only in close consultation with Congress, and that, until such withdrawal is completed, the President, no later than February 15 each year, submit a report to Congress assessing the implementation of the reduction of U.S. ground forces in South Korea. Hence, my amendment not only protected the President from a serious foreign policy defeat; it also tacitly recognized the President's plan for withdrawal, it layed down certain principles and guidelines for the implementation of such withdrawal, and assured Congressional participation in policy at every stage of the withdrawal.
U.S. troops have been in South Korea for 24 years. During this period, the South Koreans have received much U.S. equipment and training, making them quantitatively and qualitatively superior to the North Koreans. Moreover, South Korea's economy is much stronger than that of North Korea. Obviously, the United States cannot keep ground troops in Korea forever. The President's withdrawal plan would involve g r o u n d troops only and would be carried out over a period of years during which the United States would continue to build up South Korea's military equipment and firepower. Even during ground troop withdrawal, U.S. air and naval units and logistical support would remain, so as to guarantee a continuing U.S. commitment to South Korea. Under these circumstances, I favor a gradual phase-down of American ground troops in Korea over the next few years.