US Secretary for Defense Mark Esper gives a press conference

US Secretary of Defense calls on South Korea to increase spending on joint defense

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The Republic of Korea can and should increase its financial contribution to the maintenance of the American military contingent in the country.  This was announced on Friday at a press conference in Seoul by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper following the results of the 51st annual joint security consultation.

“South Korea is a rich country, it can and should pay more for the maintenance of US troops”,  said Esper.  He noted that the conclusion of a new agreement on the fair distribution of relevant costs is “extremely important” for both Washington and Seoul.

Last year, the US side announced the need for a significant increase in South Korea’s spending, since maintaining a 28,000-strong contingent there costs Washington about $ 5 billion a year.  Seoul’s spending on maintaining the US contingent in 2019 was increased by 8.2%, to 1.04 trillion won ($ 915 million).  The five-year agreement on financing the stay of 28.5 thousand US troops in the Republic of Korea expired on December 31, 2018.  In accordance with it, the annual expenses of the Seoul administration for these purposes amounted to about 960 billion won ($ 860 million).  The new agreement was concluded for a period of one year.

On November 7  head of the parliamentary committee for the unification of the Republic of Korea, Yoon San Hyun, said that Washington had demanded that Seoul increase the share of South Korea’s contribution to joint defense by almost five times to $ 4.7 billion. It was also noted that the United States insisted on  that South Korea increase its spending on the maintenance of units of the US armed forces and beyond the Korean peninsula.

United States troops have been in South Korea since the Korean War (1950-1953).  The conditions of their stay are governed by an agreement on assistance in mutual defense, signed on January 26, 1950 by the two countries.

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