November 14, 2019 09:42
Washington is piling pressure on Seoul to renew a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo and increase its share of the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea.
A diplomatic source in the U.S. said on Wednesday, "Washington is preparing two statements for two eventualities -- the pact expiring or being renewed." The pact expires next week and Korea has said it will not renew it amid a drawn-out spat with Japan.
The source said the statement will either sharply criticize Seoul if it lets the pact lapse or welcome its extension.
U.S. officials at various levels have expressed hope of the pact being extended. One official warned canceling it would create a "ripple effect beyond imagination," while another threatened a "perfect storm."
USFK Commander Gen. Robert Abrams said Tuesday, "There is a risk of sending the wrong message that perhaps we are not as strong," if the intelligence-sharing pact is allowed to lapse. He was speaking in a press conference at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province on the first anniversary of his inauguration.
"The fundamental principle of the information-sharing agreement was a clear message to the region that [Korea] and Japan put aside perhaps the historical differences and put at the forefront stability and security of the region," he added.
With regard to ongoing bilateral defense cost-sharing talks, Abrams said he agrees with a recent message from U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris to Seoul that the Korean government can and should pay more. It is unusual for the USFK chief to weigh into discussions about his own upkeep costs.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff who arrived Wednesday, and U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who arrives Thursday, are expected to bring up the same issues in talks with their Korean counterparts.
But Korea is reluctant to budge. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is considering flying to Washington soon to assert Seoul's position.
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