Seoul Pays Fair Share for U.S. Troop Presence, Says Tillerson

  • By Cho Yi-jun

    February 10, 2017 11:52

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said South Korea is bearing its fair share of the defense burden, it emerged on Wednesday. Seoul already contributes "large amounts to support U.S. forces" in the country, he said in his congressional confirmation hearing in January.

    U.S. President Donald Trump singled out South Korea on the stump as getting a "free ride," whereas in fact there is a frequently renegotiated cost sharing agreement in place.

    Rex Tillerson

    Tillerson made the remarks in a written reply to questions from U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, the Democratic ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It was made public by a U.S. environmental group.

    Replying to a question whether he would withdraw U.S. troops from South Korea and Japan unless a "fair" burden-sharing deal is struck, Tillerson said, "Japan and South Korea already contribute large amounts to support U.S. forces in their respective countries, and I am optimistic that future discussions will continue to be productive and result in equitable burden-sharing arrangements." This suggests that Washington will not make unreasonable demands.

    South Korea's ratio of defense spending to GDP stood at 2.4 percent in 2016, higher than that of Japan (one percent), and major NATO member states like the U.K. (two percent), France (1.9 percent) and Germany (1.1 percent).

    U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, during his visit to Seoul last week, did not mention any problems with burden sharing. The current agreement is effective until 2018.

    Meanwhile, Tillerson pledged to work out a fresh approach to solving the North Korean problem, including military options. He also stressed the need for a secondary boycott as a means to put pressure on the North.

    He called the North a priority factor threatening regional and international security and pledged to cooperate closely with other agencies to define a new approach to substantially resolving threats from the North.

    In answer to the question whether he supports military measures to prevent the North from launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, he said the U.S. is fully prepared to mobilize all means available to fend off a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland.

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