December 17, 2019 11:29
Defense cost-sharing talks between Korea and the U.S. are likely to continue into next year as there is little chance of agreement by year's end on how to split the cost of maintaining American troops here.
The two sides are holding a fifth round of negotiations on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The U.S. had hoped to wrap up the talks by the end of this year and went on a full-court press trying to convince Cheong Wa Dae, the National Assembly and Korean media but met with fierce resistance from Seoul to an exorbitant five-fold increase in the bill.
That will create a vacuum when the current cost-sharing agreement expires on Dec. 31.
In the current round, the Korean negotiating team will stress the contributions Seoul makes as an ally of Washington, and could offer to deploy troops to Washington's military adventure in the Strait of Hormuz.
They will also point out that Korea already pays more proportionally than any other U.S. ally to keep 28,500 American troops here.
U.S. President Donald Trump labors under the misconception that Korea's contribution is too low, perhaps because he has only considered payroll, construction and logistics support costs.
But according to government data, Korea bought US$6.28 billion worth of arms from the U.S. over the last 10 years, its fourth most enthusiastic customer. Japan, which is currently Trump's blue-eyed boy, only ranks eighth with $3.64 billion.
The U.S. is pushing for a new category, not covered by the Special Measures Agreement that governs the matter, by demanding more cash for various training expenses and troop activities outside Korea.
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