August 10, 2001
Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Department of Social Development and World Peace
3211 4th Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017-1194
Dear Cardinal Law:
Thank you for your recent letter to the Secretary of Defense concerning the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and the Republic of Korea. I read with great interest the "Assessment of the Amendment of the Status of Forces Agreement" forwarded by the Committee for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea.
The Governments of the United States and Korea reached an agreement after long negotiations on a wide range of concerns and proposals form numerous sources. The SOFA defines the framework for practical relations and cooperation between the Republic of Korea and deployed U.S. forces. It serves as the starting point for cooperation, not the end. Meetings of the Joint Committee and coordination during day-to-day operations will address detailed points of concern or interest during implementation of the Amendment.
With regard to comparison of the Amendment to SOFAs in other countries, the concerns of different sovereign states and the issues in various matters are not the same in all counties. However, the SOFA in Korea is not considered to be more favorable to the United States than those in other countries, and in fact, most of the more recent agreements with other countries provide more protection for U.S. forces than the SOFA in Korea. We do not agree that the amendment compares unfavorable to the Supplementary Agreement to the NATO SOFA with Germany, and a comparison to the Japanese SOFA requires a more complex analysis.
As a good neighbor, the United States is consciously aware of its responsibilities to our allies and their citizens while it seeks to protect the rights of our service men and women serving overseas. We must also be concerned about providing the operating rights necessary to carry out mutual defense interests of both countries, which is the purpose for deployment and stationing of U.S. forces overseas.
Thank you for your interest and thoughtful comments in this matter.
Frank R. Stone
Foreign Military Rights Affairs