U.S. negotiators reportedly walked out of talks with South Korea on Tuesday over the cost of American troops on its soil, accusing Seoul of rejecting a “fair and equitable agreement.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said after the talks that the U.S. had demanded that Seoul “increase drastically” their payments for the protection of the U.S. military, which involves the permanent stationing of 28,500 American troops across South Korea, mainly against the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea.
“The U.S. side holds the position that the share of the defense cost should increase drastically by establishing a new article (in the cost-sharing deal), while our side maintains the increase should be within the range that is mutually acceptable within the framework of the SMA that the South and the U.S. have agreed on over the last 28 years,” the ministry said.
Seoul’s chief negotiator, Jeong Eun-bo, revealed after the meeting that the U.S. had demanded $5 billion, more than a five-fold increase on their current bill of $990 million.
“In principle, we have declared a burden-sharing that is mutually viable. However, it is true that there is a significant difference between the overall proposal from the United States and our position in principle,” he said at a press briefing. “We will continue to strive with patience to make sure the sharing comes in mutually acceptable terms.”
When asked which side cut short the negotiations, Jeong confirmed that “it was the U.S. that walked out of the talks.” However, U.S. official James DeHart told claimed he had walked out the meeting in order to give Seoul “some time to reconsider.”
He told reporters:
Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden-sharing.
“As a result, we cut short our participation in the talks today in order to give the Korean side some time to reconsider and, I hope, to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement. We look forward to resuming our negotiations when the Korean side is ready to work on the basis of partnership on the basis of mutual trust.”
The breakdown of negotiations, which were intended to last two days, come after President Donald Trump warned earlier this year that South Korea was a wealthy country and must pay more for Washington’s support.
He wrote at the time:
South Korea has agreed to pay substantially more money to the United States in order to defend itself from North Korea. Over the past many decades, the U.S. has been paid very little by South Korea, but last year, at the request of President Trump, South Korea paid $990,000,000.
Talks have begun to further increase payments to the United States. South Korea is a very wealthy nation that now feels an obligation to contribute to the military defense provided by the United States of America. The relationship between the two countries is a very good one!
The negotiations form part of one of President Donald Trump’s key campaign pledges of forcing other countries to pay their fair share for U.S. military support. He has also pressured members of NATO to bring their defense spending up to two percent, which the organization has declared its member’s primary target.