Survey shows 92% support Korea and U.S. alliance

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Survey shows 92% support Korea and U.S. alliance

While 92 percent of South Koreans polled support the Korea-U.S. alliance according to the latest survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released Monday, a clear majority, or 68 percent, were in favor of Seoul negotiating a deal lower than the $4.7 billion being demanded by Washington in their bilateral defense cost-sharing negotiations.

The survey on Korean attitudes toward the United States, the alliance and the ongoing negotiations to renew a bilateral defense cost-sharing deal was conducted by phone from Dec. 9 to 11 on 1,000 Korean adults aged 19 and over nationwide with the support of the Korea Foundation.

Some two-thirds, or 63 percent, of respondents said that the alliance benefits both countries, while 26 percent said it primarily benefits the United States and 8 percent said Korea is the primary beneficiary.

Likewise, 74 percent of respondents supported the long-term stationing of U.S. soldiers in Korea, and 87 percent said the presence of American troops here contributes to South Korea’s national security. Seven in 10 said the United States’ extended deterrence contributes either a great deal or a fair amount to South Korea’s national security.

However, a majority of the Korean public was not in favor of the Donald Trump administration’s push for a fivefold increase in Seoul’s contribution in the bilateral cost-sharing negotiations for the upkeep of U.S. troops in Korea, as the current deal is set to expire at the end of the year. One-quarter even said that Seoul should refuse to pay.

Among those who want to negotiate a lower contribution, 60 percent want the cost to remain below 2 trillion won ($1.7 billion) while 30 percent say the cost should be between 2 and 3 trillion won. Some 74 percent said Seoul should not contribute to the costs of U.S. forces stationed in the Pacific region outside of South Korea.

Should Seoul and Washington fail to reach an agreement, 54 percent said the alliance should be maintained, but U.S. forces in South Korea should be reduced. One-third of respondents said that the alliance should be maintained and U.S. forces should remain as they are, while 9 percent believed the alliance should be maintained, but U.S. forces should be withdrawn. Just 2 percent were in favor of terminating the alliance.

A majority of South Koreans did not necessarily see the Washington and Seoul alliance working in the same direction on key security issues, with 55 percent of respondents stating the two countries are working in different directions on regional security, compared to 37 percent who said they are working in the same direction.

Likewise, half, or 52 percent, view the United States and South Korea as working in different directions on denuclearizing North Korea, compared to 42 percent who say they are working in the same direction.

Some 78 percent of respondents likewise said they are confident that the United States would defend South Korea if it were attacked by the North. A majority, or 56 percent, however, believes South Korea alone could defeat North Korea in an armed conflict. Ninety-four percent said that relations with the United States are important to the South’s security. Likewise, 86 percent said China was important to South Korean security.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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