U.S. Forces in Korea Move Headquarters to Largest Overseas Military Base

The U.S. armed forces stationed in Korea have officially relocated their headquarters on Friday to the largest overseas American military base.

Named Camp Humphreys, the $10.8 billion base spans about nine square miles and is located some 45 miles south of the former headquarters in Seoul. The U.S. military first established itself in the South Korean capital at the end of World War II. It had been headquartered in Seoul for 73 years.

While tensions have quieted with North Korea in the lead-up to and following the historic June 12 Singapore Summit between Pyongyang's Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, the move places the military headquarters out of range of artillery guns targeting the Seoul metropolitan area. North Korea's newer weapons, including the 300 millimeter guns it showed off in 2015, could still reach the Camp Humphreys base, South China Morning Post reported.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (center left) and U.S. General Vincent Brooks (center right) cut tape during an opening ceremony for the new headquarters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, on June 29. Ahn Young-joon/Pool via REUTERS

U.S. General Vincent Brooks said that South Korea put up the funds to pay for 90 percent of the military base, which took about a decade to complete.

"The Republic of Korea investment was over 90 percent of the cost," Brooks said, according to Reuters. "For that 90 percent, the United States remains with you 100 percent."

At an opening ceremony, South Korean Minister of National Defense Song Young-moo praised the U.S. military's work to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula. Song also highlighted the changing situation on the peninsula, with North Korea appearing open to dialogue to resolve long-standing tensions.

"The Korean Peninsula is at a turning point from a violent post-war confrontation to peace," the minister said, The Korea Times reported. "North Korea's nuclear weapons should be scrapped for good and the two Koreas will open up a new era of exchanges and cooperation. All the achievements are the result of the Seoul-Washington alliance."

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reassured Seoul that the U.S. will maintain its "current" military presence in the country as part of an "ironclad" commitment to the country's security. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

Reassurances from the U.S. military come after Trump's decision, following his historic summit with Kim, to cancel war games with South Korea, a move critics have called an unnecessary concession to Pyongyang. Prior to the summit, The New York Times also reported in early May that Trump had asked the Pentagon to consider reducing U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula. However, national security adviser John Bolton quickly denied the reports.

For its part, Seoul has publicly supported the decision to suspend war games. "We consider the ongoing denuclearization negotiations with North Korea as crucial, so as long as those negotiations continue, the decision by the governments of South Korea and the United States will be maintained," a South Korean government spokeswoman said this month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island, Singapore, on June 12. Handout/Getty Images

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been a strong supporter of dialogue, and he has taken the diplomatic route toward peace with his country's neighbor. At the Singapore Summit, Kim pledged to commit fully to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, experts and satellite images have raised questions as to whether Pyongyang will actually follow through on the promise.

Nonetheless, Moon has voiced his strong support for Washington's efforts on the peninsula and the U.S. military's role in the conflict. "The solid Seoul-Washington alliance has played a critical role as a strong war deterrent on the peninsula, helping the two countries to successfully hold summits with North Korea," Moon said, according to The Korea Times.