Asia Minute: Cost Sharing Deals for U.S. Troops

Mar 12, 2021

You may have seen the headline this week that Washington and Seoul have reached an agreement on a cost-sharing agreement for U.S. troops based in South Korea. But there’s a deeper story behind the numbers.

South Korea will increase it payments to the United States by 14% for U.S. troops based in the country — to a little more than a billion dollars a year. It’s part of a multi-year deal through the year 2025 covering the approximately 28,500 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.

Former President Trump had wanted to boost the payments by five times their previous levels.

There’s another change with the Biden agreement. In coming years, increases are no longer linked to inflation, but to the pace of South Korea’s domestic military spending. The higher its defense spending, the higher its payments to the United States.

The deal still has to be approved by South Korean lawmakers, but judging by domestic news coverage, that’s not expected to be a major hurdle.

Speaking of media coverage, this news is likely to get more publicity next week, when U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken travel to Seoul and to Tokyo.

As for Japan, last month an agreement was announced for annual payment of nearly 2-billion dollars for the basing of some 55,000 U.S. forces there.

The Trump Administration had been looking to quadruple that cost.

The deal with Japan only lasts one more year — talks are continuing on an extended agreement.