True cost of a dealThe negotiations between South Korea and the United States over defense cost-sharing have been nearly concluded. On Thursday, a senior lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) said that both governments will soon sign a provisional deal. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed they will sign an agreement within this week.
It is fortunate that Seoul and Washington have almost wrapped up tough negotiations on defense cost-sharing. According to the lawmaker from the ruling party, South Korea is to pay 1.05 trillion won ($932.8 million) for this year. The amount is less than what the U.S. government demanded — 1.4 trillion won — and even less than what U.S. President Donald Trump had wanted — 1.9 trillion won.
If the agreed sum is approved by the National Assembly, the thorny issue will be resolved. But one big problem is the requirement that the deal be renewed each year. That means our government will have to renegotiate on an annual basis. In the past, the cost-sharing agreement lasted for five years.
The new deal partly resulted from the Moon Jae-in administration’s pro-North Korea and pro-China policy, as well as Trump’s determination. On top of that, a U.S.-North Korea summit scheduled for Feb. 27 and 28 could affect the future of our alliance. In a speech at Stanford University last month, Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, mentioned the possibility of Trump making an end-of-war declaration soon. If Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hammer out the declaration in their second summit in Vietnam, it could force the annual Korea-U.S. military exercises to change in a fundamental way or lead to a reduction of the U.S. Forces in South Korea (USFK).
Trump already canceled the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise typically held in August. To make matters worse, North Korea is calling for a suspension of the Key Resolve drills, computer-simulated war games, and the Foal Eagle drills, large-scale joint mobility exercises, both scheduled for March and April.
The Moon administration has been negative toward the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy. Some U.S. security experts doubt whether South Korea is really an ally. We hope our government clears all possible problems of the cost-sharing deal as soon as possible.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 8, Page 30