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U.S. position in defense cost talks undermines S. Korea alliance : expert

Yonhap News  |  By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, May 21 (Yonhap) — The United States’ insistence that South Korea shoulder a much larger share of the cost of the U.S. troop presence risks hurting the alliance at a time when both sides need each other, a Korea expert said Thursday.

Victor Cha, former director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, made the comment in response to the ongoing impasse in the two countries’ negotiations for a defense cost-sharing deal.

“The sad part of all this is that the alliance has become consumed by this one technical issue, and it’s soured South Korean views of the alliance,” he said during a virtual seminar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

“It’s not as well covered here in the United States, obviously. And for what? You know, for like dollars and cents, when this alliance has a deep history. Both countries need each other. They’re very important partners to each other in the world,” he said.

This file photo shows Victor Cha, former director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows Victor Cha, former director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council. (Yonhap)

U.S. President Donald Trump has rejected South Korea’s latest offer to increase its contribution by 13 percent for the hosting of 28,500 American troops in the country.

The Trump administration has instead asked for US$1.3 billion a year, an increase of nearly 50 percent.

In the absence of a new agreement, U.S. Forces Korea has placed some 4,000 South Korean employees on unpaid leave since the beginning of April.

Drawing on his experience of working in Congress, Robert King, a former special envoy for North Korea’s human rights issues, weighed in that the alliance actually serves U.S. interests.

“I think most members of Congress who serve longer than most presidents tend to see the value of participation of other countries and in our alliance as something that benefits the United States,” King said.

“We’re not doing this for the benefit of South Korea or for the benefit of Europe. We’re doing these things because it’s in our interest, and it’s useful to get support and cooperation of other countries who share the values, the concerns, the ideas that motivate us as well.”