July 31, 2019 12:54
Seoul and Washington are fine-tuning the schedule for a visit by new U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in August, a government official here said Tuesday.
Esper is expected to keep pushing Seoul to increase its share of the upkeep cost of U.S. troops here after the White House's National Security Adviser John Bolton made the same demand here during his recent trip.
"The new Pentagon chief is considering a tour of five countries in East Asia, including South Korea and Japan, beginning early next month," the official said. "No exact date for his visit has been set yet, but he'll probably arrive here around Aug. 10."
During his stay, Esper is expected to pay a courtesy call on President Moon Jae-in and sit down with Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo.
Esper supports U.S. President Donald Trump's policy of pressuring "wealthy allies" to "pay the full cost for hosting American troops." In his Senate confirmation hearing, he said he will keep up pressure on U.S. allies so they can contribute "more fairly" to combined security.
Government officials here seem worried about the concerted U.S. campaign. "I can only say that we'll discuss this issue in a rational and fair way," a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said there have "no consultations" with Washington on any specific amount. A military spokesman said, "There'll be a more detailed discussion about defense cost sharing when Esper visits."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com