Crucial that South Korea pays more for U.S. troops, Pentagon’s Esper says
SEOUL – Mark Esper, the U.S. Secretary of Defense has pressed South Korea on Friday to pay more for the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country. They also asked to maintain an intelligence-sharing pact with its other Asian ally, Japan.
Speaking soon after a high-level defence policy meeting with the South Korean Secretary of Defence, Jeong Kyeong-doo, Esper said that the two countries must be flexible with their joint military drills to back diplomatic efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear programme. He stopped short of announcing any new reduction in the military exercises that North Korea has sharply condemned.
North Korea said on Thursday that it had turned down a U.S. offer for new talks ahead of a year-end deadline that Pyongyang has set for Washington to show more flexibility in negotiations.
As uncertainty remains over the troubled peace push, the United States and South Korea are simultaneously scrambling to clinch an agreement in the coming weeks to cover next year’s costs of maintaining a 28,500-strong U.S. military presence aimed at deterring North Korea.
Esper said, “South Korea is a wealthy country and could and should pay more” for the U.S. military deployment. “It is crucial that we conclude the (defence pact) … with increased burden-sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year,” Esper has told a news conference.
Jeong said Esper and he shared the view that the cost-sharing pact being negotiated should be fair and mutually agreeable to both parties, but it was unclear if they shared any sense of what a fair amount might be.
A South Korean lawmaker last week said that U.S. officials had demanded up to $5 billion a year, which is more than five times of what Seoul agreed to pay this year under a one-year deal.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.