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South Korea Warns U.S. of ‘Crisis’

March 13, 2004

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ South Korea’s Defense Minister said Saturday that the president’s impeachment caused a ``crisis situation in the supreme military command,″ and urged U.S. military assistance in maintaining ``impeccable vigilance without the slightest wavering.″

The South Korean military heightened its awareness toward communist North Korea after President Roh Moo-hyun was impeached, but no unusual military movements had been reported along the tense inter-Korean border by Saturday.

The comments came before a morning meeting between Cho Young-kil and U.S. Gen Leon J. LaPorte, commander of U.S. Forces in Korea, which station 37,000 troops on the divided peninsula.

The day before, Roh was stripped of his executive powers in an unprecedented impeachment vote citing illegal electioneering and incompetence.

Also suspended was Roh’s duty as commander in chief of the South’s 650,000-member military, which faces off against North Korea’s 1.1-million armed forces across the world’s most heavily armed border.

Details of Saturday’s meeting were not immediately known.

The talks followed a phone call Friday night by South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon to Secretary of State Colin Powell in which Ban said Seoul would ``maintain its close alliance with the United States.″

Ban also said there would be no change in Seoul’s policy toward North Korea.

The United States keeps 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. The U.S. military presence has been a fixture in South Korea since Washington sent troops to defend the country during the 1950-53 Korean War.

President Roh has espoused a policy of ``independent national defense″ that calls for lessening South Korea’s reliance on the U.S. military while keeping the alliance with Washington.

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