US National Security Advisor John Bolton urged South Korea to ramp up its share of costs for stationing American troops here during his visit to Seoul last month, revealing his country’s spending records, according to the Dong-a Ilbo on Friday.
When Bolton met South Korean National Security Office Director Chung Eui-yong on July 28, he showed a statement with details of the US spending for stationing 28,500 soldiers here, including training fees and wages for overseas dispatch of military forces, which totaled $4.8 billion per year.
US National security adviser John Bolton speaks to media at the White House in Washington, July 31. (AP-Yonhap)
Bolton said the South Korean government eventually has to share the cost burden, saying that is what US President Donald Trump is keen on and cannot be negotiable, the newspaper said.
Under this year’s bilateral cost-sharing deal, the Special Measures Agreement, Seoul agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won ($860 million), an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year.
The deal is only valid for this year and the two countries are expected to launch a new round of negotiations soon.
As the time for starting new negotiation approaches, concerns have been raised that Trump may seek an unreasonable amount of burden-sharing as he has pressed other allies including Japan to jack up their defense costs.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported on July 31 that the Trump administration is seeking a fivefold increase in what Japan pays for the US military force deployed there.
Citing an unnamed source, Dong-a Ilbo said Washington does not intend to receive the full amount of $4.8 billion from South Korea next year, but could be planning to continuously increase the cost that it shoulders so that it could offset the amount it sees it has overpaid.
On Wednesday, Trump said that Seoul has agreed to pay Washington “substantially more” for protection against North Korea and that talks have begun to further increase payments. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry denied that the SMA negotiations have started, adding that key negotiators from both sides have not been named yet.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who is visiting South Korea, is highly expected to have discussions on the new SMA negotiations when he meets his Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo and officials at Cheong Wa Dae and the Foreign Ministry.
However, Esper did not mention the cost-sharing deal when he made remarks at the start of talks with the South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo. It is not known whther the matter was discussed behind closed doors.
An official said Esper “didn’t comment on it at all,” during his meeting with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
By Park Han-na (firstname.lastname@example.org