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Seoul Wants Talks With US On Troop Control

About 32,500 US soldiers are stationed here to help 650,000 South Korean military troops face up to North Korea's 1.2-million-strong army.

Seoul (AFP) Oct 12, 2005
South Korea has called for talks with the United States to regain control over its troops in wartime, a sensitive topic that could erode security ties between the allies, officials said Wedneday.

Under a mutual defense pact, the commander of US troops stationed here excercises operational control over South Korean troops in case of an armed conflict.

The wartime operational rights have been the backbone of bilateral security ties forged in 1950, when US troops arrived here to repel an invasion by North Korea.

But calls for South Korea's independent control of its military grew after the United States pushed ahead with the redeployment of its troops last year.

"The government has called for talks with the United States on the wartime operational rights," presidential spokesman Kim Man-Soo said, adding Seoul has yet to receive any response from Washington.

South Korea hopes to discuss the issue when US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visits Seoul on October 21 for talks with his South Korean counterpart Yoon Kwang-Ung, other officials said.

About 32,500 US soldiers are stationed here to help 650,000 South Korean military troops face up to North Korea's 1.2-million-strong army.

But South Korea and the United States have been at odds over how to rein in North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and other contentious issues such as the sharing of defense costs.

South Korean officials say the time is ripe for Seoul and Washington to revise their alliance, citing inter-Korean reconciliation sparked by a watershed summit in 2002.

The Koreas have been technically at war ever since the 1950-1953 Korean War and have yet to replace the armistice that ended the conflict with a proper peace treaty.

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Indian Troopers Cross Kashmir Border To Offer Help
Srinagar, India (AFP) Oct 12, 2005
Indian soldiers Wednesday crossed the de facto border dividing the Indian and Pakistani zones of disputed Kashmir to rebuild a quake-destroyed bunker, an Indian army spokesman said.

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