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[NEWS IN-DEPTH] S. Korea-U.S. defense-cost sharing analysis


one of the biggest pending military
issues between South Korea and the u.s. is their defense cost-sharing
negotiations for maintaining US troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula
talks between the two sites will resume on Tuesday in Washington after the
previous round held in Seoul two weeks ago ended in failure there are mixed
opinions in the US on how much South Korea should shoulder on defense costs
with the Trump administration up in pressure while some other lawmakers are
voicing concerns over trumps in moderate demands today we go in-depth on the key
points of the defense cost-sharing with dr. Zhang up of the Sejong Institute
it’s always good to have you with us thanks for having me
so Seoul and Washington have been sharing the burden of defense
cost-sharing for years now but for next year he was president Trump is demanding
Korea pay five billion u.s. dollars which is about five times more the
amount Seoul pays now how do you see this so there are like two problems with
regard to the demand from the US side especially from the president Trump
first the way how he is demanding South Korea to pay more is inappropriate when
it comes to the alliance management so maybe us cannot afford everything for
its own so maybe our us can ask its allies to contribute more for the share
of the course of stabilizing the security in the region however that way
that he spoke about this issue is not really the one that we expect from the
president of the our line and second the amount that he want to raise from South
Korean government is not really a based on exerting calculation of the cost
itself so he asked for the five times more than we are now paying for the
burden sharing but we don’t know yet where that number came from so because
of those two reasons I think it’s very difficult for us to understand why he’s
demanding five times more than now so I guess we need to take a closer look at
on what grounds mr. Trump is making such demands which leads to our next
question why is the u.s. demanding such steep Gray’s on what grounds so I think
that the number first came from President Trump without any calculation
on the coast so this year the US Department of Defense have their
appropriation bill to the Senate that it’s going to be about four point three
billion dollars to maintain US troops on the Korean Peninsula which includes the
salary to the soldiers and housing for families and maintaining maintaining the
troops all the costs related to maintaining US troops in Korea however
that that’s only like four point three billion dollars but President Trump is
requesting five billion dollars this year which is more than what dude with
what department defense calculates for maintaining the cost of US troops on the
Korean Peninsula so I don’t know where five billion came from but since
President himself is mentioning five billion dollars all the negotiators and
the department defense has to make what what is the composition of five billion
dollars so I think it’s a headache for them as well now breaking down the
numbers Seoul and Washington have settled defense costs through the
so-called special measures agreement or the SMA since 1991 roughly how much has
South Korea share of defense cost been raised over the years and how much does
Korea expect it to be raised next year so the agreement based on the SEMA is
the sofa special agreement of the foreign probation of the US forces that
means that result Korean didn’t pay anything before 1991 to the United
States so this is why it’s a special South Korea only provides land and other
utilities while US is paying for a maintaining its troops on the Korean
Peninsula so so special measures agreement is a special because it’s the
exception of the sofa so now are based on the sofa from 1990
you won the South Korea is partially paying to contribute the stationing of
the US troops on the Korean Peninsula and we are paying for like some salaries
to the Korean workers on the US bases and the maintaining caused and other
costed like electricity bills that used but it does not include the the rent for
the land that we are providing for free now so let’s say that if we are paying
for the Campo Humphrey which is in contact that we built all those things
and we provide the land for free but that does not the SMA does not cover
that kind of cost so if we calculate those rent and other cost into the
calculation of special measures agreement the contribution from South
Korean government will be much more than now so lovely we are go we would
probably say that 40 percent would be covered by SMA to the maintenance of the
US troops on the Korean Peninsula but if we include all those rents for the land
that South Korean government is providing it’s way more than that
so Seoul and Washington have been sharing defense costs since through the
special measurement agreement since 1991 but I hear this is the first time that
the two are facing such conflict that such deadlock over defense cost-sharing
what does this imply about mr. Trump’s perspective on Washington’s allies yes
it is true that in the past we have some conflicts over make agreement on how
much South Korea should pay for the SMA because South Korea always wants to pay
less and us want South Korea to pay more all the time however because of the
spirit of the alliance they want to make the conflicts very low-key so we really
don’t observe any kind of like conflict over the surface however this time the
president Trump expressed three demands South Korea to pay more than before and
it’s like u.s. is not getting any benefits from the alliance
so because of like his transactional view of the Alliance make the things
worse so I think that as he has continued to say about alliance
relations with Korea and many other countries from before he became the
president of the United States he has very low lower value in maintaining the
Alliance compared to his predecessors so I think that’s worrisome not only in
Korea but many many observers in Washington DC and other countries
well criticism is also growing in the US with regards to trumps in moderate
demands on soullow with the US Congress submitting a report on Saturday saying
that South Korea’s contribution should also be considered in defense
cost-sharing negotiations it also said that South Korea’s defense costs are
among the highest among the u.s. allies do you think that could have an impact
on the negotiations which will resume tomorrow in Washington so I think it
gives some kind of pressure to the US negotiators because South Korea is
paying a two point five percent of its GDP for the defense which is almost the
highest among the US allies like NATO NATO countries they pay less than 2%
amoled in most countries of NATO pay like 1% Japan pays about 1% of GDP to
the defense so South Korea is well contributing to the defense even before
that this talk began so I think that US Congress are regardless of Republican or
Democrat they all knew the fact that South Korea is already contributing to
the alliance there is why US Congress has raised the concerns that this kind
of demand from the President Trump might weaken the strengths of the Alliance
there is why they making the statement well do you think it will have an impact
though on tomorrow’s talks so we don’t know yet because yeah it it gives some
kind of like political pressure to the negotiators but president Trump himself
made it a very clear repeatedly in the past that he’s going
to raise the money so I don’t know how it’s going to evolve but President Trump
himself repeatedly mentioned that he needs to get the money to the US borders
so I think it’s going to very difficult for the US negotiators to address the
issues from president and also from the from the Congress now world leaders will
gather in London for NATO summit this week but NATO isn’t in such a celebrated
mood for its 70th birthday with mr. Trump being highly critical of the
organisation calling it obsolete at some points what are the key points to watch
out for during this year’s NATO summit so it is actually true that the
contribution made by NATO countries to maintain the NATO as an organization has
been a rather small because it is like 29 member countries including the United
States but us has been paying 22% of the budget so from the US point of view that
day one NATO member countries like 28 other countries to contribute more to
the to the alliance so this year that the US and NATO are agreed that u.s. is
going to decrease its share of contribution from 22 percent to 16
percent but the budget for the NATO maintenance is way less than the money
that we are now paying for the SMA so the money itself is not critical however
the fact that the NATO member countries have not paid enough for their own
defense because they only pay like one percent only four countries have a
promise that they are going to raise their defense cost up to 2 percent of
their GDP so I think that there is why the US has like less our concerns over
the disputes between the u.s. and the NATO member countries about cost-sharing
however the way how president Trump is dealing with the NATO country is also
worrisome to the many Watchers in Washington DC
in my quickened alliance relations between US and NATO member countries now
the the seoul-washington defense cost-sharing deal agreed upon in
February expires at the end of this month which means that the deadline to
settle on a deal for next year’s defense cost-sharing is the end of this year do
you think that she will be able to strike a deal before the year end it was
not real strange thing that if they past the deadline because in the past there
are many cases that they made a deal after the 31st of the December so I
think it’s not going it’s very unlikely that they are going to strike a deal
before the end of this year but the problem is that when can they strike a
deal next year so this year it was it was February or March and US government
how u.s. FK has to pay for the salaries and maintain cost for themselves but
that that’s about like two or three months tops so if two countries cannot
reach an agreement like March or April there’s going to be a huge issue how to
how to pay for the service and maintaining cost and then we don’t know
what President Trump is going to respond to the situation so that’s how it’s
different from the previous cases over past you now some argue that the u.s. is
exerting greater pressure on South Korea ahead of its negotiations with Japan and
Germany to set an example that fits its national interest your thoughts on that
so very unfortunately South Korea is kind of a first case for the u.s.
negotiating the boat in sharing with many other allies that USA has so
Japan’s SMA is going to renew has to renew next year and like many other
countries were not really the problem because you asked didn’t pay that much
to other countries so it is mainly Korea and the Japan that
president Trump has most interest because as in our cases that you asked
didn’t want Korea to pay before 1991 because South Korea has been very weak
in the economy and there is a value that you as providing security to Korean
Peninsula so I think now president from the president Trump’s point of view that
Korea and Japan is a wealthy country so from his point of view why do why does
us need to pay for them so I think that if Japan comes first and we might be
helped some relief but unfortunately we are the first cases there is why u.s.
pushed very hard so they can have much better deal with the Japan next year now
South Korea and the u.s. hopefully they can come up with a deal by the end of
this year but if they fail to do that they will have to come up with some kind
of an agreement before at least April as you’ve mentioned at the latest next year
do you think the South korea-us deal will have an impact on future Washington
negotiations with its allies other allies so because of the worries that we
have this year’s negotiations that we include a close that if two parties can
reach an agreement on time they can use they can continued and extend the
current year’s deal to the 2020 if two parties agree that means that we don’t
need to raise more money until – until the early 2021 so us does not want that
case because if South Korea does not raise its contribution to the alliance
maybe other countries will follow the same suit so there is why u.s. is going
to are going to press much harder in December and January for the continuing
negotiation with the South Korea well it sounds like a bumpy road ahead but let’s
keep close tabs on how things turn out tomorrow in Washington thank you dr. Wu
for your insights thank you

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