South Korea Meets Trump’s Demand to Pay More for U.S. Troops

Lester Mason
February 11, 2019

According to Reuters, South Korean officials wanted to cap spending at one trillion won (the new total works out to 1.03 trillion) and sign a three-year agreement, while the us wanted 1.4 trillion won.

While acknowledging lingering domestic criticism of the new deal and the need for parliamentary approval, Kang said the response had "been positive so far".

US army soldiers take part in a military exercise at a training field near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea, February 7, 2016. Unlike prior deals, which have lasted five years, the one signed on February 10 expires in one year.

The U.S. originally demanded South Korea pay around $1.2 billion.

The provisional contract, known as the Special Measures Agreement, was inked almost six weeks after the previous five-year accord expired.

"The United States government realizes that Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", Betts said. "We are very pleased our consultations resulted in agreement that will strengthen transparency and deepen our cooperation and the alliance".

Trump surprised Seoul and many of his own aides when he announced after his first summit with North Korea on June 12 that he was suspending joint war games with South Korea, which he called "very expensive" and "provocative".

Some conservatives in South Korea voiced concerns over a weakening alliance with the United States at the same time as negotiations with North Korea to deprive it of its nuclear weapons hit a stalemate.

The allies had struggled to reach a breakthrough despite 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump's repeated calls for a sharp increase in the ROK's contribution.

They said Trump might use the failed military cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to pull back some of United States troops in South Korea, as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

About 70 percent of South Korea's payment funds the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean workers who provide administrative, technical, and other services for the US military.

The disagreement had raised the prospect that Trump could decide to withdraw at least some troops from South Korea, as he has in other countries like Syria. During his election campaign, Trump suggested he could pull back troops from South Korea and Japan unless they took on greater a share of the financial burdens of supporting US soldiers deployed there.

Seoul contributed around 960 billion won previous year - more than 40 percent of the total bill - financing the construction of American military facilities and paying South Korean civilians working on USA bases. South Korean officials pushed for a three-year deal keeping their annual contribution around $864 million.

Their first summit in Singapore last June resulted in Kim's vague commitment to "complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", a term that his propaganda machine previously used when it argued it would only denuclearise after the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea.

Trump's top envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, visited Pyongyang last week to work out details of the upcoming summit.

To become official, the deal must still be approved by South Korea's National Assembly, which is expected in April.

In order to ensure that the Alliance remains ready to "Fight Tonight", defend the Korean Peninsula, and (if necessary) defeat North Korea, South Korea and the United States prioritize the development and deployment of a wide array of military assets. South Korean officials also anxious that local workers might lose their jobs if the US chose to cut costs at its military facilities.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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