May 08, 2020 11:39
U.S. President Donald Trump is reportedly demanding US$1.3 billion a year to maintain American troops in Korea. That is a whopping 53.3 percent higher than the W1.4 trillion Korea had to pay last year.
A senior U.S. official told the Chosun Ilbo on Thursday, "The U.S. faces many difficulties, including the coronavirus epidemic and a $1.3-billion offer is realistically not bad. This was approved by President Trump."
Trump originally wanted $5 billion a year.
A high-ranking government official here said, "We have been considering annual increases in defense spending to raise the amount to $1.3 billion over the next five years, but I believe the U.S. wants that right now."
Another U.S. government source said if Korea pays less, the number of troops here "could decline," and claimed Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley has told his Korean counterpart Park Han-ki so. But Park denied this on Wednesday.
The pressure from Trump seems to be intended to divert from his catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus epidemic as his re-election chances dwindle.
But his hands are tied. The U.S.' National Defense Authorization Act prohibits a downsizing of American troop presence in Korea below the current 28,500. For any further reduction, Congress requires proof that the downsizing benefits national security interests and negotiations with allies Korea and Japan.
The Korean government on Thursday said the U.S.' demand is "excessive." "The results of negotiations must be acceptable to both sides," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. "They must be reasonable and fair to either side."
The spokesman declined to comment on the actual figure, saying it is "under discussion." Some pundits now believe the defense cost-sharing talks could be postponed until after the U.S. presidential election in November since Trump has to focus on his campaign.
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