January 13, 2020 09:48
U.S. President Donald Trump has made several false claims about South Korea's share of the upkeep of American troops here ahead of another round of cost-sharing talks in Washington this week.
While answering questions about Iran and the Middle East in an interview with Fox News on Friday, Trump abruptly said South Korea is a "wealthy country" and should pay more. "These rich countries have to pay for it. South Korea gave us $500 million."
"I said, 'You got to help us along. We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea protecting it from North Korea. You've got to pay.' And they gave us $500 million."
South Korea actually shouldered W1.39 trillion in defense costs last year, up W78.7 billion from the year before (US$1=W1,162). Trump also misstated the number of American troops here. The actual number is 28,500.
South Korea's alleged failure to pay its fair share has been an obsession of Trump's since his presidential campaign, even though Seoul pays proportionally more than any other U.S. ally.
However, Seoul and Washington are narrowing their differences in the cost-sharing talks. U.S. Congress also put the brakes on Trump's attempts to "threaten the alliance" with unreasonable demands -- a reported $5 billion more for this year.
The U.S. Senate last week unanimously passed a resolution reconfirming the importance of the bilateral alliance. The bi-partisan resolution was proposed in April last year, and a similar bill is being discussed at the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Infantry Division left for South Korea on Saturday to replace outgoing forces. There had been concerns that the rotation would be suspended if Trump was dissatisfied with the progress of the cost-sharing talks.
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