- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 6, 2000

The U.S. military command in South Korea suspects that anti-American locals have set up "strike squads" to attack U.S. citizens and has warned personnel not to travel alone.
The command sent out a warning message late last month after an Army major was stabbed to death and the wife of a U.S. serviceman was assaulted while shopping.
"Commanders shall reiterate the requirement for all [U.S. Forces Korea] personnel, to include family members, to use the buddy system when traveling off post at all times," said the message to 37,000 American personnel stationed in the capital of Seoul and other cities.
Anti-American demonstrators, led by leftist students, want the U.S. military to leave South Korea. They have stepped up activities in the aftermath of an historic mid-June summit between Kim Jong-il, leader of communist North Korea, and Kim Dae-jung, president of the democratic South.
South Korean political leaders have made it clear they want American troops to stay as a deterrent, despite the slight warming in North-South relations. Clinton administration officials and members of Congress are firm in saying U.S. troops should remain for the foreseeable future.
The Army identified the stabbing victim as Maj. David Berry, a pediatrician assigned to the 18th Medical Command.
Maj. Berry was stabbed in the chest June 25 by a Korean national while walking with two friends, one of whom is a physician and who administered immediate aid, in a busy Seoul shopping district. The Army called the assault unprovoked and said the assailant was a "37-year-old unemployed construction worker who appears to be mentally unstable."
Nine days earlier, a military wife was shopping when a national approached her, screamed anti-American slogans and beat her on the back. Her injuries were not serious, according to the command's warning message.
"It was unprovoked, but potentially serious," the message said. "Recent anti-American sentiment, demonstrations and protest activities, rhetoric and and now two broad daylight attacks in heavily populated shopping areas [are] disturbing and make these enhanced protection measures prudent."
The message states that dissidents have set up "anti-American strike squads."
The U.S. command has also set up a "civil disturbance hot line." A hot-line message warned of the possibility of a rash of anti-American demonstrations at city parks across South Korea around the July 4 holiday. "Some of these demonstrations may become violent," it said.
The command declined to comment on whether there were any incidents over the weekend.
The hot line advises U.S. personnel to "keep a low profile, be alert, avoid large crowds," and use the buddy system.
The message does not identify the "strike squads."
An Army spokesman in Seoul had no immediate comment yesterday on the squads' makeup.
Americans have been in South Korea since the outbreak of the Korean War 50 years ago. They serve under the command of the United Nations and U.S. Forces Korea, which is composed primarily of the 7th Air Force and 8th Army. U.S. officials say the vast majority of South Koreans want them to stay. In addition to 37,000 troops, there are about 11,000 American family members in the country.
Soon after the summit, Pyongyang repeated a demand for Americans to withdraw, reverting to bellicose language missing during the first meeting between leaders of the North and South.
The spouse of an Air Force officer serving in Korea said he saw no U.S. media reports on the major's homicide.
"I didn't see anything about it in today's newspapers, nor any mention of it on the radio," said the husband, who asked not to be named. "Perhaps we're too busy celebrating the meeting between the leaders of the North and South, as well as 'legacy building,' to notice such distractions."
Daryl Plunk, a Korean affairs expert at the Heritage Foundation, said anti-Americanism has ebbed and flowed depending on domestic politics. Right now, he said, opposition to a U.S. live-fire bombing range is adding to tensions created by the North-South summit.
"It's been a bad year regarding feelings toward the U.S.," Mr. Plunk said. "In terms of the summit atmosphere, I think there is a pretty broad nationalist reaction that I would not call anti-American, but certainly more self-reliant in their thinking… . I don't see the current outbreak of anti-Americanism as one that will last very long."
The demonstrations pale in comparison with protests in the early 1980s, when the government conducted a bloody crackdown.

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