May 02, 2017 10:42
Korea has been the world's biggest buyer of American weapons even ahead of perpetual captive client Saudi Arabia, despite claims by U.S. President Donald Trump that Seoul fails to pull its weight.
According to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Korea has bought W36 trillion worth of American weapons since DAPA was set up in 2006, the biggest figure in the world and almost the same as Korea's entire defense spending last year (W38 trillion).
Korea was the No. 1 importer of American weapons from 2006 to 2015, according to the 2016 yearbook by the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality. And Seoul is going to spend more than W10 trillion in coming years to buy F-35A fighters and Global Hawk surveillance drones from the U.S. under the current procurement plans.
Seoul also shoulders a massive amount of the cost of keeping the U.S. Forces Korea here, which provide the U.S. with a huge strategic advantage in the region. This year, Korea shoulders about W950 billion under the Status of Forces Agreement, up about nine-fold over the past 26 years (US$=W1,138). The amount is expected to reach W1 trillion next year when the next round of negotiations is in full swing.
It is paying W8.9 trillion toward the construction cost of the new USFK headquarters in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. The Pyeongtaek base, measuring 14.68 million sq. m., is the largest single overseas base operated by the U.S. military and is expected to cost W17.1 trillion in total.
"It's possible that the Pyeongtaek base will be used as the U.S. military's key multi-purpose base with state-of-the-art facilities as a defensive foothold in Northeast Asia," a government source here said. "It would be strategically inefficient and cost much more if it had to build such a base on its own mainland with its own money."
In addition, Korea spends some W10 billion a year supporting the USFK's Korean Augmentation to the United States Army, the only such kind the U.S. military operates in the world. About 2,000 KATUSA soldiers are supporting USFK troops, who are unfamiliar with Korean culture and language, to carry out their mission.
Trump late last week ruffled Korean feathers with a characteristically unguarded demand that Seoul pay for the stationing of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery here.
"We're going to protect them," he told Reuters. "But they should pay for that, and they understand that."
The battery mostly serves to protect U.S. troops and equipment from North Korean missiles.
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