South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper at Cheong Wa Dae on Friday, as the Pentagon chief has openly pressed Seoul to renew a military information-sharing agreement with Tokyo and increase its financial contribution to American troops on its soil.
Esper visited the presidential compound soon after having bilateral talks with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo at the ministry's headquarters in Seoul.
A Cheong Wa Dae official earlier informed reporters that Moon and Esper would make opening remarks in front of pool reporters, but they did not do so. They went straight into a closed-door meeting immediately after a brief photo session.
The other US attendees were Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Forces Korea commander Gen. Robert Abrams, Ambassador Harry Harris and Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.
It was joined by several South Korean officials, as well, including the defense minister, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Park Han-ki, Chung Eui-yong, head of Cheong Wa Dae's National Security Office, and Kim You-geun, deputy director of the NSO.
Moon was expected to use the session, scheduled to last half an hour, to explain the background and rationale of his government's decision to terminate the agreement with Japan on exchanging military information, known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement.
After the Security Consultative Meeting with Jeong, Esper said keeping the accord alive is crucial in trilateral security partnerships in Northeast Asia.
Its expiration, slated for next week, from "continued friction between Seoul and Tokyo" would be of benefit only to Pyongyang and Beijing, he stressed. He added in a press conference, "(South) Korea is a wealthy country, and could and should pay more to offset the cost of defense."
Seoul and Washington are haggling over sharing the cost of the presence of the 28,500-strong USFK in the country. (Yonhap)