The U.S. military has no plans to move U.S. families out of South Korea, a spokesman said Wednesday in response to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s suggestion that it was getting too dangerous to keep noncombatants on the divided peninsula.
Pacific Command said the safety and welfare of servicemembers, employees and family members is a top priority and contingency plans are in place.
“We currently have no intent to initiate departures for military dependents, whether on a voluntary or mandatory basis, and no intent to modify the policy authorizing military dependents to accompany military members being stationed in South Korea,” spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Benham told Stars and Stripes in an email.
“Our personnel forward deployed to South Korea remain in a consistent state of readiness through various training exercises, which include annual NEO training,” he added, referring to drills that occur on a regular basis to prepare families for a possible noncombatant evacuation operation.
Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he believes it’s time to start withdrawing family members of U.S. military personnel from South Korea as the North pushes the United States closer to conflict.
He also said he’ll urge the Pentagon not to send more dependents, which would make it an unaccompanied post.
“It’s crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour,” the South Carolina Republican said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it’s now time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea.”
The U.S. maintains about 28,500 troops in South Korea, many of whom are in the country with spouses and children.
Tensions have risen after North Korea test-fired its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, demonstrating rapid progress toward a goal of developing a nuclear weapon that could reach the U.S. mainland.
The launch shattered more than two months of relative calm and occurred despite tightened U.N. economic sanctions and pressure from President Donald Trump’s administration for the reclusive communist state to end its nuclear program.
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