The chief of a US think tank said South Korea currently pays an adequate amount -- $1 billion -- for the upkeep of US Forces Korea, Voice of America reported Wednesday.
John Hamre, president and CEO of the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview with the US broadcaster that the US was stationing troops in South Korea for its own interests and that there is no minimum amount that Seoul should pay.
Defense cost-sharing talks between Seoul and Washington were abruptly cut short earlier this month, as the US called for “a drastic increase” in South Korea’s share.
According to reports, the US has demanded that South Korea pay $5 billion next year to cover costs related to the allies’ combined military exercises and support for the USFK troops’ families.
Under this year’s Special Measures Agreement, set to expire at the end of the year, Seoul agreed to pay $870 million.
Hamre said the USFK were not mercenaries who defend South Korea in return for money and that defense cost-sharing talks should not start from the premise that Seoul owes Washington.
US troops serve the purpose of defending the US, and it is also important to protect Asian allies that share the country’s values, said Hamre, who served as undersecretary of defense in the Clinton administration.
The USFK must protect South Korea from China, North Korea and Russia, Hamre told VOA, adding that he was concerned about the possible weakening of the alliance, given the continued conflict over defense cost sharing.
Regarding the stalled denuclearization negotiations between the US and North Korea, Hamre said there is a low chance that the two will hold working-level talks before the end of the year.
“I think we’re going through another cycle. We’re heading into another one of those confrontational cycles. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was some really provocative act by North Korea over the next two to three months,” Hamre said, adding that long-range missile and nuclear tests were possible.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com