Seoul, Washington Start Talks on Defense Burden Sharing

  • By Ahn Jun-yong

    February 01, 2018 13:10

    A senior U.S. administration official has reiterated the importance of Seoul paying more for the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea than the current W950 billion per year (US$1=W1,068).

    Defense Department official Elbridge Colby told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that Washington has to re-engage in talks with Seoul "about equity in the burden-sharing arrangement."

    "I think given the realities of the situation, from... an equity point of view, we have to calibrate. We have to re-engage with this discussion about equity in the burden-sharing arrangement in way that, if you go back to our history, it was often a spirited and often contentious discussion that was had among friends."

    U.S. President Donald Trump claimed during his election campaign that Korea does not pay enough for the USFK upkeep and hates to be seen to back down.

    "In 1950, Korea was a couple dollars a day average GDP. Today Korea is one of the most advanced, sophisticated countries in the world," Colby said. "We have a lot of challenges; we believe we can manage them, but we need more from our allies and partners."

    Seoul in 1991 agreed to pay for part of the upkeep the USFK. The money include personnel costs for Korean staff, expenses for military construction and defense, and logistics.

    The current agreement, which was signed in 2014, expires at the end of this year. Pundits expect that Washington will demand Seoul pay at least US$1 billion per year.

    The U.S. refuses to disclose exact figures, but it is estimated that Seoul bears more than 50 percent of the costs of U.S. soldiers stationed here, compared to 50 percent for Japan and around 20 percent for Germany.

    Seoul also bore more than 90 percent of the costs for the expansion of the USFK's Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, which came to $10.7 billion in total.

    "Talks will begin either late this month or early next month, depending upon the situation in the U.S.," said Chang Won-sam, Seoul's chief delegate to the talks. "We're fully ready for the talks as the current amount Seoul bears is no smaller than that of other U.S. allies."

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