Senator John Kerry (file photo)
Washington, 19 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Democratic U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry has criticized President George W. Bush's proposal to withdraw up to 70,000 U.S. troops from Western Europe, South Korea, and Japan during a 10-year period.
Kerry told a group of veterans in Cincinnati, Ohio, yesterday that the plan raises doubts about U.S. intentions. "The president's vaguely stated plan does not strengthen our hand in the war on terror," he said. "It in no way relieves the strain on our overextended military personnel. It doesn't even begin until 2006 and it takes 10 years to achieve."
Kerry said Bush's policy would cut forces at a time when the nation is fighting the Al-Qaeda network around the world. He said the redeployment would also undermine relations with U.S. allies needed to help fight in Iraq.
Kerry said reducing troops in South Korea would endanger national security as the United States is working to deter North Korea's nuclear program. "Why are we withdrawing, unilaterally, 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula at the very time that we are negotiating with North Korea -- a country that really has nuclear weapons," he said.
The United States, South Korea, Russia, Japan, and China have been conducting periodic talks with North Korea aimed at eliminating the communist country's nuclear-weapons program. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes North Korea has at least two small nuclear bombs.
Currently, there are 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. Under the Bush plan, 12,000 troops would be withdrawn.
Kerry also criticized Bush's Iraq policies. "I know what we have to do in Iraq," he said. "We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side because that is the right way to get the job done in Iraq and bring our troops home."
The Democratic Party candidate pledged that if he is elected president in November, he would level with the American people. "I will always ask the hard questions and I will demand hard evidence and I will tell the American people the truth. Some may not like it, but I will tell them the truth, and I will immediately reform our intelligence system so that policy is guided by facts and facts are never distorted by politics," Kerry said.
Kerry has stressed his service during the Vietnam War and is seeking support of U.S. veterans.