December 02, 2019 09:54
The U.S. Congress believes that South Korea already shoulders the highest defense costs among U.S. allies.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services in a report last week said that South Korea is making significant contributions to the cost of maintaining U.S. troops here and its spending of about 2.5 percent of GDP on defense is the highest among U.S. allies. It added Seoul's contributions should be taken into proper consideration in the next rounds of bilateral cost-sharing negotiations.
The committee opposed putting the threat of withdrawing any considerable number of U.S. troops on the negotiation table. It expressed support for diplomatic efforts to achieve complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the North.
Legislation prevents the executive from cutting its troop presence in South Korea below the current level of 28,500 without congressional approval.
But the Donald Trump administration remains adamant that Seoul should pay more. In a reply to a written question from South Korean reporters last week, a State Department spokesperson said the cost of maintaining overseas U.S. troop presence is not a burden that U.S. taxpayers should shoulder alone but must be shared fairly by allies and partners that benefit from it.
The cost-sharing talks resume Tuesday, and Washington is currently demanding an exorbitant five-fold increase in South Korea's already generous contribution.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris has asked ruling and opposition lawmakers what they think of the rumor that President Moon Jae-in is surrounded only by pro-North Korean aides. Harris raised the question when he talked with an opposition lawmaker who is critical of Moon's North Korea policy, during a meeting with 10 lawmakers in September, sources said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesperson declined to comment citing an off-the-record agreement the participants reached before the meeting.
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