Time to rebuildSouth Korea and the United States have reached an agreement on defense cost-sharing after the negotiations went adrift for more than one year after Donald Trump’s administration demanded a fivefold increase in the amount of money South Korea has to pay. On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry and the Department of State announced a consensus in principle between their representatives. That will be followed by domestic briefings in each country and the signing of a provisional agreement. Though the details of the agreement are not disclosed, Seoul reportedly agreed to an annual four percent increase from 1.13 times the amount of Korea’s share in 2019, which stood at 1.389 trillion won ($1.2 billion).
The official signing of the new agreement, effective from 2020 to 2025, will likely be held during U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken’s trip to Seoul in mid-March. Due to all the confusion from a failure to reach consensus, the Korea-U.S. alliance experienced a lot of difficulties in maintaining the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). We welcome the new developments, which were possible thanks to U.S. President Joe Biden’s firm belief that an alliance is not about transactions but about mutual trust.
After the defense cost-sharing deal is finally signed, Seoul and Washington must rebuild an alliance that has been off track for three years. In fact, the two allies have not conducted a full-fledged joint drill since the summer of 2018 due to the Moon Jae-in administration’s desire to not provoke North Korea. They skipped mobilization of combat troops or just engaged in virtual drills based on computer simulations. That does not help improve our soldiers’ real capability to fight the enemy on the battlefield.
The joint Command Post Training (CPT), which started in Korea Monday, is also being carried out only for some of its operation plans in cyberspace. If a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, it will proceed in an even more complicated way, including mobilization of large-scale troops and all types of weapons.
South Korea must find effective ways to contribute to the peace and security of the world. The Biden administration hopes Seoul will join its campaign to contain China, but the Moon administration is reluctant to accept that role. Our government must think again if it wants to reinforce the alliance with the U.S. to survive a seismic shift in the global order.