August 08, 2019 09:47
U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday falsely claimed that South Korea has agreed to pay more for its defense.
"South Korea has agreed to pay substantially more money to the United States in order to defend itself from North Korea," Trump tweeted. "Over the past many decades, the U.S. has been paid very little by South Korea, but last year, at the request of President Trump, South Korea paid $990,000,000."
The tweet in fact came ahead of negotiations on sharing the upkeep cost of U.S. troops here and may have been intended to put extra pressure on Seoul.
The Foreign Ministry here said it would be "inappropriate to comment on a tweet by a foreign head of state." But a ministry spokesman in a statement pointed out that cost-sharing talks "haven't started yet."
The claim duly sparked fears that new U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper will demand a drastic increase in Seoul's share of the upkeep cost when he is here on Thursday and Friday.
"South Korea is a very wealthy nation that now feels an obligation to contribute to the military defense provided by the United States of America," Trump claimed in the tweet. "The relationship between the two countries is a very good one!"
In February last year, Seoul settled for a one-year agreement and paid W1.0389 trillion for 2019, up 8.2 percent from the previous year (US$1=W1,216). Normally the agreement has been for five years.
The ministry spokesman said the two allies "agreed to hold fair and reasonable negotiations when the U.S.' National Security Adviser John Bolton was here last month. The details will be discussed in the talks."
There is speculation that Trump sent the tweet about an imaginary success to divert attention from two mass shootings that have rocked the U.S. in the last few days, one of which was expressly inspired by Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric.
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