Asia Minute: Paying for U.S. Troops in South Korea

Oct 3, 2019

Talks are underway between the United States and South Korea about sharing costs for U.S. forces based on the Korean peninsula. This is part of a longer story.

A deadline is approaching for one aspect of U.S. relations with South Korea: paying for U.S. forces in the country.

It was less than seven months ago that the two countries signed the latest cost-sharing agreement. The result of that deal was an increase of more than 8% for South Korea’s bill — to nearly 900-million dollars.

But this agreement expires at the end of the year, and analysts expect the figures to rise again.

President Trump has frequently spoken and tweeted about his desire for South Korea to pay more for the 28 thousand 500 U.S. forces based in the country. But South Korea faces a tough economy – exports have fallen for 10 straight months, and that represents roughly 40% of the country’s gross domestic product.

President Moon Jae-in is also making the case that his government’s purchase of U.S. military hardware should account for something.

This week, South Korea rolled out some of its newly acquired F-35 stealth fighter jets for the first time, during ceremonies marking its Armed Forces Day. The country has agreed to buy 40 F-35’s from Lockheed Martin by 2021 in a move that, predictably, has sparked criticism from North Korea.

As for the cost-sharing on the troops, that used to be a three or five-year agreement, but under the Trump Administration it’s recently turned into an annual event.

So far, there’s no word on how long the new deal may last.