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No More Talks For U.S. and South Korea on Sharing Peninsula

Negotiations are over between the US and South Korea when it comes to splitting the bill on keeping the US troops stationed on the Korean peninsula.  It was round three when talks abruptly ended between the two nations.  Due to the cost of maintaining the troops, the price rose to $4.7 billion.  Tensions rose as North Korea is pressing on the drills taking place on the peninsula, and other factors were taken into consideration.

The chief negotiator for the US, James DeHart, held a press briefing. He stated, “The US delegation came with open minds, and even prepared to adjust stance as needed in order to move towards a mutually acceptable agreement, but that the South Korean team’s proposals were not responsive to US’ fair and equitable burden-sharing.”  He continued, “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 in the spirit of our great alliance.”

South Korea’s chief negotiator Jeong Eun-bo held his own separate press conference.  He stated, “We couldn’t conduct the talk as plans as the US team left the venue.  We maintain our current stance that the cost division (between the US and South Korea) needs to be decided based on the Special Measures Agreement frame in which we have agreed for the past 28 years.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper held a press conference in Manila, where he made it clear, South Korea is a rich nation.  It should help with more of the financial cost as partners. Esper stated all of the negotiations will be handled by the US State Department.  Seoul’s anxiety is on the rise as the secretary was working to ease the threats of North Korea’s move to add to their development of more weapons and has launched 24 missiles so far this year.  With the price rising on the cost of keeping the US soldiers in the area, Seoul is highly concerned.  The bottom line is the US should not have to fork out the majority of the bill.

In 2016, Trump’s campaign promise was to have South Korea pay 100 percent of the bill, or he would start pulling the troops out of the peninsula.  Last year Trump requested a 50 percent increase, but in the end, they only agreed to an 8 percent increase.  The notice was put in by the Trump administration; there would be more negotiations annually.

Negotiations this year was raised from $1 billion to $5 billion when the Pentagon and the State Department stepped in and weeded the cost down to $4.7 billion.  President Trump has stated he is strongly considering the move to pull out 4,000 US troops if the requested amount is not met.  This is no different than a friend who always has to fork out the money to pay for expenses for get-togethers.  Sooner or later, that person is going to get tired of paying the bill, or they will go broke.  The possibility is also there that the president will pull out all of the troops long before the US goes broke over this issue.

A diplomatic source in D.C. was quoted in a South Korean newspaper saying, “I understand that the U.S. is preparing to withdraw one brigade in case negotiations with South Korea do not go as well as President Trump wants.”  A brigade consists of about 3 to 4K troops, and there is a total of around 28,500 US troops at the peninsula.  A brigade would be reasonable. It would easily be approved by Congress and within the limits of the National Defence Authorization Act for the fiscal year of 2019.  Any number above 22,000 may be kept according to the act, but if more is taken out to drop the number below 22,000, the Secretary of Defense would have to certify the decision to Congress.

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun stated the US should not take out all of the troops but agrees with the president on 4,000 troops pulling out.  Biegun was asked his thoughts if he was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State.  His response was, “South Korea is among our most important alliance partners. That doesn’t mean anybody gets a free ride. We have a tough burden-sharing negotiation that we’re in the middle of with the South Koreans.”