A US demand for South Korea to quintuple spending for hosting American troops earned a stiff rebuke from Seoul, to which Washington responded by walking out of “cost-sharing” talks to give Koreans time to “reconsider.”
Some of the US’ closest allies have bowed to pressure and agreed to pay more for the US-provided protection and deterrence, but the price tag is still an issue for Seoul. The US and South Korea found themselves at an impasse when the former demanded that Seoul spend $5 billion each year for hosting 28,500 American personnel on its soil.
The sum would compensate US troops for their labor, support their families, and fund rotational troop deployment, along with offshore training expenses, according to Yonhap. Previously, Seoul was only asked to pay for its workers hired by US forces, construction activities at American bases, and other minor expenses.
$5 billion is actually five times bigger than one of East Asia’s biggest economies agreed to pay this year. Unsurprisingly, the cost-sharing meeting between American and South Korean negotiators abruptly ended one hour after starting, though it was scheduled to run throughout Tuesday.
South Korea’s chief negotiator Jeong Eun-bo confirmed Seoul and Washington are far apart on the issue, noting there is “a significant difference between the overall proposal from the United States and our position.” Seoul’s foreign ministry was a bit more articulate, signaling that Seoul is unwilling to pay more than it has done “over the last 28 years.”
There’s also a growing irritation at the pressure Washington is piling on Seoul. This Monday, the Korea Times, one of the most-read newspapers, run an angry editorial accusing the Trump administration of putting money before a desire to strengthen ties.
Coming a day after Seoul and Beijing agreed to “foster bilateral exchanges and cooperation in defense,” the piece warned that US-South Korea alliance may fall apart due to “Washington’s blatantly excessive demand for Seoul to cover the cost of the US military presence.”
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