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Trump complaints lead to new deal for more defense dollars from South Korea

February 4, 2019

U.S. and South Korean negotiators have agreed to a tentative cost-sharing agreement that will keep thousands of American troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula, State Department officials announced Monday.

The preliminary agreement reached between Washington and Seoul would have South Korean officials contributing roughly $1 billion annually, to subsidize costs tied to the 30,000 U.S. service members stationed in the country, U.S. diplomats told reporters.

President Trump has repeatedly complained of “rich nations” that enjoy U.S. military protection but fail in his mind to pay their fair share of the bill. South Korea has been a particular target of Mr. Trump’s ire in the past, and he has even hinted at pulling out the roughly 28,000 American troops stationed there.

The figure, included in the new, interim pact between the two nations under the Special Measures Agreement, represents an $800 million increase in Seoul’s contribution to the American military presence. The majority of those funds will go toward funding day-to-day operations for U.S. forces based on the Peninsula.

The deal, which will only remain in place for one year with an option to extend for another year.

“Both sides are committed to working out remaining technical issues as quickly as possible,” a State Department official said in a statement regarding the new pact, according to CNN.

“The United States appreciates the considerable resources [South Korea] provides to support the Alliance, including its contribution towards the cost of maintaining the presence of U.S. forces in Korea through the Special Measures Agreement,” the official added.

Talks between Trump officials and counterparts in South Korea to recalibrate the five-year agreement broke down in November over U.S. demands to increase South Korean payments for U.S. military operations.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” Mr. Trump denied claims administration officials considered a U.S. pullout from South Korea, saying U.S. officials “never even discussed removing them.”

But he did keep the door open to a troop withdrawal, noting “it’s very expensive to keep troops there,” compared to other parts of the world. His comments came as the White House is preparing for a second round of talks with North Korea, who view with U.S. presence on the Peninsula as a direct challenge to Pyongyang’s sovereignty.

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