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U.S., S Korea break off defense cost talks amid backlash over $5 bil demand

29 Comments
By Joyce Lee and Sangmi Cha

South Korean and U.S. officials broke off talks on Tuesday aimed at settling the cost burden for Seoul of hosting the U.S. military, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, amid a public backlash over a $5 billion U.S. demand for the bill.

The breakdown in talks was a sharp and rare public disagreement in the 66-year alliance, with each side suggesting the other was not prepared to come to a fair and reasonable compromise on sharing the costs for hosting 28,500 U.S. troops as a deterrent to North Korea.

"Our position is that it should be within the mutually acceptable Special Measures Agreement (SMA) framework that has been agreed upon by South Korea and the U.S. for the past 28 years," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, referring to the cost-sharing deal's official name.

"The U.S. believes that the share of defense spending should be increased significantly by creating a new category," the ministry said in a statement.

The top U.S. negotiator, James DeHart, said the Americans cut short the talks to "give the Korean side some time to reconsider and I hope to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of our great alliance."

"Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean negotiating team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing," DeHart told a briefing.

Negotiators left the table after only about one hour of discussions that were scheduled to continue throughout the day, South Korean media reported, citing unnamed foreign ministry officials.

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South Korean lawmakers have said U.S. officials were seeking up to $5 billion a year, more than five times the 1.04 trillion won ($896 million) Seoul agreed to pay this year.

U.S. officials have not publicly confirmed the number, but Trump has previously said the U.S. military presence in and around South Korea was "$5 billion worth of protection".

Trump has long railed against what he says are inadequate contributions from allies towards defense costs. The United States is due to begin separate negotiations for new defense cost-sharing deals with Japan, Germany and NATO next year.

Trump has floated the idea of pulling U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula, which remains in a technical state of war under a truce that suspended the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on what the new cost category U.S. sought was, but Yonhap news agency has reported the U.S. demand included labour costs for the U.S. troops in South Korea, military personnel and family support costs, costs of rotational deployment of U.S. troops to the Korean Peninsula, and offshore training expenses.

In past cost-sharing agreements, South Korea only paid for three categories - personnel costs of South Korean workers hired by U.S. troops, military construction costs such as building facilities within U.S. bases, and military assistance expenses, such as for services and materials.

The negotiations are taking place as U.S. efforts to reach an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs appear stalled, ahead of a year-end deadline from Pyongyang for the U.S. to shift its approach.

Under South Korean law, the military cost-sharing deal must be approved by parliament.

Ruling party lawmakers have said this week they will "refuse to ratify any excessive outcome of the current negotiations" that deviate from the established principle and structure of previous agreements.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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$5 billion a year, more than five times the 1.04 trillion won ($896 million) Seoul agreed to pay this year.

The Trump administration really is trying to make an enemy of the world. 5x times the cost is robbery at its finest.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

South Korea pays directly about 40% of the total total while Japan pays about 84% of the total costs.

The total costs to America for it's 883 overseas bases is about $65 billion. A very small part of the defense budget of more than $800 billion.

Trump is causing unnecessary tension by involving such small amounts of money.

3 ( +9 / -6 )

U.S. officials have not publicly confirmed the number, but Trump has previously said the U.S. military presence in and around South Korea was "$5 billion worth of protection".

It seems the US military is ready to be made into a mercenary force.

From "This we'll defend", to "Here's our price".

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Wait.... SK wants to KEEP an agreement?

4 ( +10 / -6 )

Looks like some one is trying to pull another Quid Pro Quo!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

the costs for hosting 28,500 U.S. troops as a deterrent to North Korea.

Hey, how about we withdraw the 28,500 troops? How much longer do we have to keep protecting S.Korea anyway? Be one less thing for the N.Koreans to complain about too. What are they going to do, invade S.Korea?

1 ( +10 / -9 )

A wealthy nation should pay for its own defense and make alliance with like minded allies. At some point the US wrongly started paying for the defense of other countries.

I agree with Trump on this.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

US military in SK isn't really about NK. It is about China and other ASEAN countries.

How much are 28K US lives worth as a shield?

Last time I was there, I recall seeing the US flag hanging with the South Korean flag at customs. At the time, it seemed really strange - then they scanned my iris.

Trump and his diplomats need a course in how to influence people. They need that badly. The 5x and take-it-or-leave-it attitude doesn't work. No govt has any way they can make a 5x budget change - well, unless they will add it to a deficit.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

SK should just open talks with Russia or China over defense co-operation and see how quickly the U.S legs it back to the table.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Hilarious to hear that South Korea is upset that another country won't abide by their agreement!

If South Korea is not going to act as an ally and willing to disrupt the US-JPN-SK alliance, then they can go take a hike. US troops don't need to be in South Korea.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

US troops don't need to be in South Korea.

Same has with Japan with Trump demanding $8 billion. for costs of $5 billion.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

If America closed all of it's bases overseas, the savings would be less than $20 billion of the defense budget. Maybe Trump is still looking for his wall money.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Not the same as Japan at all. Japan needs the US for the Nuclear Umbrella. The U.S. needs Japan as a stable reliable base of regional operations. Neither country is acting against the interests of the other. So any discissions regarding costs will be negotiated and the alliance entended.

In contrast, South Korea under Moon has put such a high priority on a peace treaty with NK and "unificaction" that it acts against the interests of the United States. More importantly, South Korea does not serve the U.S. in the way that Japan does, with US troops simply being a tripwire.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

While South Korea paying about 800 million sounds like alot....

"The most recent agreement, signed in 2014, increased South Korea’s contribution to more than $800 million a year. That’s equal to about half the annual cost of the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed there, according to Pentagon officials, not including personnel costs that the Defense Department would have to pay no matter where the troops were posted.

The money doesn’t go to Washington, however.

It’s used to pay salaries of Koreans working on U.S. bases or is in the form of non-cash contributions of services and construction at the installations, according to Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of U.S. troops in Korea."

https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-trump-allies-20160930-snap-story.html

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Bribery and Trump are in the news a lot lately...

7 ( +8 / -1 )

This a perfect opportunity for the Governments of Japan and South Korea to find a compromise to their historic political differences and forge a more permanent relationship based on regional trust.

This is Mr Donald real estate mogul Trump extorting and taking advantage.

It is time to look to the future. Find a way to settle the past, If not Trump will divide and conquer. $5 bil demand?

Trump is taking the P. Walk away and demand that US troops leave on a phased schedule. Don't threathen it do it, but together, Join hands.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A removal of US bases in both Japan and South Korea would push back US forward bases to Guam Apra Harbor, and Pearl Harbor Hawaii, unable to fully protect US interests in the region especially the vital South China Sea shipping routes.

Do this in a phased withdrawal and demand that US pay for remaining troop deployment.

Nothing personal just business is business, what goes around comes around.

But the Government of Japan and South Korea have to be singing off the same hymn sheet. So it is time to deal with the past

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

itsonlyrocknrollToday  07:59 pm JST

But the Government of Japan and South Korea have to be singing off the same hymn sheet. So it is time to deal with the past

Tell that to South Korea, the only country that's still clinging to the past.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Who will bet on a coup from the SK Military?

I say it will happen within the year if this goes on further.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Cost sharing is necessary so I have no problem with that, but a 5x increase out of the blue? The SK government is now stuck between Trump's demands and their own people who will be outraged at such a sudden and seemingly arbitrary increase. No win situation for them.

Trump simply doesn't know how to negotiate at this level. He's either antagonizing or appeasing, nothing in the middle.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I say turn the tables. Japan and Korea should demand billons of dollars from the US to rent bases.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is a non-story. As long as mainland China supports NK, there is no solution. The moment China decides they do not need NK any more, a solution is possible. And Trump is the person to find that, in contrast to the typical deep state warmongers in Washington, that the deep state and the fake media want to bring back into power.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Peter Neil:

I say turn the tables. Japan and Korea should demand billons of dollars from the US to rent bases.

Fine. But then they will have to finance their own defense. Think that will be cheaper?

(Crickets.....)

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

North Korean military has a large military of poorly equipped, poorly fed people with obsolete, poorly maintained weapons, aircraft and naval equipment. South Korea has advanced aircraft, naval assets, armor and highly trained personnel.

No contest.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Maybe Trump is still looking for his wall money.

Which he shant have! He has no right whatsoever to even think or pursue such an immoral thing. He has already kidnapped thousands of Hispanic children with no intention of ever releasing them. No negotiations with a Hitler, NO STUPID WALL!

30 years ago - Berlin. Remember?

TriringNov. 19 08:59 pm JSTWho will bet on a coup from the SK Military?

I say it will happen within the year if this goes on further.

That's occurred many times before. SK has had several totalitarian regimes until the 90s when democracy came into being there.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

China hates the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system deployed in S. Korea so much to retaliate economically, and S. Korea has endured all economic loss and suffering. Why does the U.S. military want it to be in S. Korea?

Owing to the bases in S. Korea, the U.S. can detect a possible missile launching from Beijing to the N. America in 7 seconds. In Japan, it takes 7 minutes, and 15 minutes in the N. America.

At least, S. Korea never asked the rental fee for the bases including the THAAD base of the U.S. military.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Which he shant have!

Already going p and 175 miles being constructed as we speak.

He has no right whatsoever to even think or pursue such an immoral thing.

Yes, he does, he absolutely does, he’s the President and because he controls the executive branch any Democrat trying to challenge on this at the SC level would lose.

He has already kidnapped thousands of Hispanic children with no intention of ever releasing them. 

My God, what on Earth are you talking about and where are you getting this nonsense from?

No negotiations with a Hitler, NO STUPID WALL!

Like a bullet train, it’s a coming.

And Trump is the person to find that, in contrast to the typical deep state warmongers in Washington, that the deep state and the fake media want to bring back into power.

Bingo! I couldn’t agree more.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Trump shake downs on South Korea and Japan.

Total costs of American troops in South Korea about $2 billion. SK pays 40% @ $830 million. Trump wants $5 billion.

Total costs of American troops in Japan about $5billion. Japan pays $4 billion. Trump wants $8 billion.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Serrano

Hey, how about we withdraw the 28,500 troops?

No can do. The US congress imposed minimum troop level in Korea is 22,500. Trump can't go lower than 22,500, and is indeed threatening to pull 6000 troops out of Korea but Moon isn't blinking.

@OssanJapan

disrupt the US-JPN-SK alliance

There is no such thing as US-JP-KR alliance.

a high priority on a peace treaty with NK

A peace treaty with NK is impossible and unconstitutional, because the ROK doesn't recognize DPRK as a country, but as a communist rebel group occupying the northern portion of the ROK territory.

Tell that to South Korea, the only country that's still clinging to the past.

Japan is clinging to the past as much, with Abe's Imperial Japan worship.

@zichi

Same has with Japan with Trump demanding $8 billion. for costs of $5 billion.

Unlike Korea, Abe is likely to pay $8 billion protection money. Heck, Trump ordered Abe to buy $7 billion worth of US corn and Abe complied.

@Triring

Who will bet on a coup from the SK Military?

Don't bet on it. Grunts will refuse. It's impossible to stage a coup now because 80% of Korea's conscripts are either college students or college graduates.

This is why military dictatorship doesn't work in highly educated countries.

@WilliB

The moment China decides they do not need NK any more

China will never decide that because that means US bases 650 km away from Beijing.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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