U.S. experts on Korea are criticizing the Trump administration’s demands for a substantial increase in Seoul’s defense contribution.
John Hamre, CEO and the President of Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said during an interview with Voice of America that the U.S. Forces in Korea are not mercenaries, who get paid to protect the country. He pointed out that it is important to protect an ally and a partner in Asia, who shares common values with the U.S.
Regarding Seoul’s share of the cost of the U.S. troops stationed in the country, Hamre said the 1 billion U.S. dollars Seoul is currently paying is an appropriate amount, adding that there is no minimum amount Seoul has to pay although it is welcoming if Seoul is willing to pay more. Hamre criticized President Trump’s “free-ride” rhetoric, saying that South Korea has accepted every request by the U.S. to send troops.
Experts are voicing concerns that Trump’s demands for a five-fold funding increase are damaging South Korea-U.S. relations. “I do think that the relationship is under a little bit of strain,” said Susan Thornton, former acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, adding that there is “some daylight” between the U.S. and South Korea. She said very different political situations in the U.S. and South Korea are playing out a lot of the differences between the two countries, expressing concern that the current situation is something the two countries have not had before.