Cost of having American friends? That’ll be US$924 million, thanks

Clay Curtis
February 12, 2019

South Korea will pay $60 million more for the upkeep of US troops on its territory-this after President Donald Trump demanded that Seoul boost its contribution. But with US President Donald Trump calling for his allies to pay an increased share of their defense costs, South Korea was under pressure to pay almost double the current amount, equivalent to nearly $1.4 billion a year.

South Korea and the United States struck a new deal Sunday on how much Seoul should pay for the USA military presence on its soil, after previous rounds of failed negotiations caused worries about their decades-long alliance.

Unlike past agreements, which lasted for five years, this one is expected to expire in a year, potentially forcing both sides back to the bargaining table within months.

"The United States government realises that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", said Betts. The officials stressed the importance of "a strong South Korea-U.S. alliance and the need for a stable stationing of U.S. troops" and said the response from most of South Korea's government to the revised arrangement has been "positive so far".

The deal, which involves the spending of South Korean taxpayer money, requires parliamentary approval in South Korea, but not in the United States, according to Seoul's Foreign Ministry.

"It has been a very long process, but ultimately a very successful process", South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a meeting before another official from the foreign ministry initialled the agreement.

When the negotiations began previous year, Washington had asked South Korea to finance "operational support" that would have covered the deployment of strategic assets, an official from the Foreign Ministry here explained. "We are very pleased that our consultations resulted in an agreement, and I think that will deepen our cooperation in the alliance".

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They said Trump might use the failed military cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to pull back some USA troops in South Korea as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump will travel to Hanoi, Vietnam for the summit on February 27-28.

South Korea has agreed to substantially increase its contribution to cover the cost of keeping USA troops in that country. Late a year ago, the USA military had warned the South Korean employees on its bases that they may be put on leave from mid-April if no agreement was reached. The U.S. originally asked Seoul to pay about $1 billion.

South Korea on Sunday signed a provisional deal to raise its contribution for US troops in the nation by 8.2 percent.

"It's very expensive", he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

The next round of annual joint military exercises, called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, is due to be held in the spring, although officials have said they won't announce a date until after the Vietnam summit. The big US military presence in South Korea is a symbol of the countries' alliance, forged in blood during the war, but also a source of long-running anti-American sentiments.

The allies also missed the December 31 deadline in 2013, but they managed to reach a deal a few weeks later when South Korea agreed to increase its contribution by 5.8 percent, with a 4-percent cap on the inflation rate.

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