U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris has said that Seoul’s financial contribution for the deployment of U.S. troops, who he said are performing a role to protect the country, is not enough. From the perspective of the United States, South Korea could be seen as having funded only one-fifth of the total defense cost, he commented, adding that as the world’s 12th largest economy, South Korea can and should take a larger share.
The two sides may be able to find middle ground if they enter into negotiations, the ambassador said in an exclusive interview with the Dong-A Ilbo at the State Department in Washington on Friday (local time). Washington has consistently called for Seoul to increase its contribution for next year to 4.8 billion dollars (around 5.81 trillion won), five times the current amount. Stressing that they cannot let the talks take forever, Washington has set the deadline of the talks at Dec. 31 this year.
When asked about the recent breakdown in working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang in Stockholm, the ambassador said that North Korea demanded that the United States should do everything first before it starts doing something. This is the first time that a senior official at the Trump administration has released a public assessment of the collapsed talks since the State Department issued a statement on the matter. The North is asking the United States to do exactly the same thing that they have complained about, the ambassador added.
President Donald Trump has not established a timeline of a third North Korea-U.S. summit, the former U.S. Navy officer commented, saying that the United States has a separate negotiating team who will have to iron out the tricky details. He also said yes when asked if his comment means that Washington would not pursue a summit with the North before they see progress in working-level talks. As for South Korea’s decision to leave the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is set to expire in November, he expressed concern that the Seoul government’s announcement to withdraw from the deal is a mistake and it is creating a setback in maintaining security in the region.