May 02, 2017 12:41
U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Saturday tried to smooth ruffled feathers in South Korea over President Donald Trump's threat to make Seoul pay $1 billion for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery being stationed here.
Trump's ill-considered remarks have needed a lot of glossing over the first 100 days of his presidency, and McMaster did just that. What Trump really meant, he said, "is to look across all of our alliances and to have appropriate burden sharing-responsibility sharing."
McMaster hinted that other areas of the Korea-U.S. alliance could be up for renegotiation. That means talks held every five years over sharing the cost of maintaining 28,500 American troops in here could result in Seoul paying a higher bill.
Korea already pays around W1 trillion a year to maintain American troops here (US$1=W1,138). Public resistance here will be strong, and a broadly progressive new government here may not go out of its way to quell it. There is no telling how Trump will respond. It would not be beyond him to try and tear up the current agreements and completely overhaul the U.S. military presence in South Korea.
Unfortunately for Seoul, the threats to its national security are no longer restricted to North Korea. They can even come from its closest ally. This will be a massive challenge for the next administration.
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