- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

HONOLULU, Feb. 17 (UPI) — Marines and Army infantry based in Hawaii will likely not take part in the military buildup in the Middle East and will instead be held as a reserve force to reinforce allied forces in South Korea in the event the current tensions on the peninsula boil over, the Honolulu Advertiser said Monday.

The Army's 25th Infantry Division and 8,000 leathernecks stationed on Oahu have not yet been given any orders to deploy to the Persian Gulf, which has defense analysts convinced that the United States is concerned that there is a possibility North Korea could launch an attack on the South.

"I don't see them being involved in the follow-on force or for the post-Saddam government," Patrick Garrett, an analyst with GlobalSecurity.org, told the Advertiser. "I think they're much more useful where there are, which is waiting for a war on the Korean Peninsula to occur."

Tensions in Korea were ratcheted higher this year when North Korea announced it was pursuing a program to produce enriched uranium in violation of a 1994 agreement that froze the North's nuclear program in exchange for western economic aid. Although the United States has said it has no plans to take military action, Pyongyang has been bellicose in warning that it was prepared to go to war over the dispute.

At the same time, the United States has been pouring troops and equipment into the Persian Gulf region for what is expected to be a confrontation aimed at ousting Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

The Advertiser said that there have been no major deployments to the Middle East by the Marines and soldiers in Hawaii and no orders for such troop movements have been received. The 25th is a light infantry division that is designated to rapidly respond to crises in foreign nations, although it is not equipped with a great number of tanks and other armor.

"The forces that are in Hawaii are force-packaged for the Korean Peninsula," Garrett said, "and I think they don't really have the type of training you need for fighting in a desert environment."

Garrett told the newspaper that he was confident that the 37,000 U.S. troops in the Korean region would be sufficient to counter a North Korean attack; however other analysts believe it is necessary for the United States to show it can commit forces to contain North Korea while its primary focus right now is on Iraq.

"I think this is all a matter of sending messages that the other guy understands," said Michael Pavkovic, director of the diplomacy and military studies program at Hawaii Pacific University.

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