No Plans to Evacuate Families Off Korean Peninsula, US Military Says

SEOUL, South Korea – The U.S. military has not plans to begin evacuating U.S. families from South Korea, a spokesman said Wednesday following Sen. Lindsey Graham's suggestion that it was getting too dangerous to keep noncombatants on the divided peninsula.

The South Carolina Republicans remarks that he believes it's time to start withdrawing family members of the some 28,500 U.S. station troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops troops 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 1

9 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 North in place.

"We currently have no intent to initiate departures for military dependents, whether on a voluntary or mandatory basis, and do not intend to modify the policy authorizing military dependents to accompany military members being stationed in South Korea," spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dave Benham told Stars and Stripes in an email.

"Our personnel forward deployed to South Korea remain in a consistent state of readiness through various training exercises, which include annual NEO training," he added, referring to drills that occur on regular basis to prepare families for a possible noncombatant evacuation operation.

That was welcome news for many American family members and other civilians working with the military, which has maintained a presence on the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War. [19659002] "I'm not going anywhere if I can not bring my family with me," said Shamika Maxon, a budget analyst who works at the Army's Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.

She said relatives and friends in the United States have expressed concern for her safety, but she does not feel the danger and is reassured that her South Korean colleagues do not either.

"I look to them and how they are reacting … and I do not see any difference with their behavior, " she said.

The two Koreas have seen tensions rise in the past only to pull back from the brink before an outright conflict could break out.

But the North's rapid progress towards a goal of developing a nuclear weapon that could reach the US mainland and threats from President Donald Trump to take military action to stop it have taken to the most serious crisis in

The reclusive communist state has tens of thousands of soldiers and artillery positions poised on the other side of the heavily fortified frontier . However, life goes on as usual in South Korea, with many believing the North would not attack in its own backyard.

Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the North was pushing the U.S. closer to conflict and it's time to evacuate dependents. He also said he'll urge the Pentagon to make South Korea an unaccompanied post.

"It's crazy to send spouses and children to South Korea, given the provocation of North Korea. South Korea should be an unaccompanied tour," he said. Sunday on CBS '"Face the Nation." "So, I want them to stop sending dependents, and I think it's time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea."

Warning sign

Thomas Spoehr, a defense expert at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation, Said North Korea would see such a move as a provocation.

"Certainly when the US seriously contemplates military action, family members should be removed," he said in an email. "We should be careful not to act prematurely."

"North Korea would interpret move to remove families as a sign of US preparation for offensive military action," he said.

Spoehr, a retired Army lieutenant general, Also noted the Trump administration's strategy of applying "global maximum pressure" on the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

"Senator Graham probably believes evacuating family members would both contribute to the administration's campaign, and also to ensure families are out of potential harm's way, "he said.

The US military has already reduced the number of dependents in South Korea when the 2nd Infantry Division introduced rotational units that serve yearlong tours that are unaccompanied.

But many of the other servicemembers have spouses and children with them, which allows for longer assignments. [19659002] The 8th Army advertises South Korea as a "dynamic, family-friendly assignment that is personally and professionally rewarding" as a recruitment tool

Staff Sgt. Chris Contreraz said he has spent too much time without his family during tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Without my family, I may as well be deployed," I said while buying dinner at the Yongsan food court with his three daughters, ages 3, 5 and 9.

"It's very important to have them with me. "I've said, adding he'll look to the military for guidance. "I'll start worrying if they actually tell the families to leave."

"I do not see the Koreans being as worried as we are," I added. "Everything is business as usual here off post."

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