updated 5/16/2004 9:30:36 PM ET 2004-05-17T01:30:36

The United States wants to move some of the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to Iraq, South Korean officials said Monday.

“The U.S. government has told us that it needs to select some U.S. troops in South Korea and send them to Iraq to cope with the worsening situation in Iraq,” said Kim Sook, head of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s North American Bureau.

“South Korea and the United States are discussing the matter,” he said.

Kim said that the two allies are working out the details, including the number of U.S. troops to be redeployed to Iraq.

South Korea has feared that a cut in U.S. military presence might weaken the two allies’ combined defense readiness against North Korea amid tension over the communist state’s nuclear weapons program. The inter-Korean border remains the world’s most heavily armed border.

Washington has indicated that it planned to redeploy U.S. troops from South Korea but will shore up its military might in South Korea by deploying newer weapons, including Patriots anti-missile systems that could protect the South Korean North Korean missiles.

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