PN's Voice 106

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PN's Voice 106, 25.01.2017
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PN's Voice No. 106,  25. 01. 2017 
Small steps, Road to peace

Seoul Already Paying Enough for USFK

South Korea is already paying enough for the upkeep of 28,000 U.S. troops stationed here while also being a major buyer of American weapons, South Korean military officials said on Monday. South Korean policymakers plan to make the case that Seoul is not "free riding" on U.S. security commitments — as President Donald Trump has insisted — if Washington demands more payment. 

President Trump said in his inaugural speech that Washington has so far "subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military and defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own." During the presidential campaign, Trump also argued that it made no sense for the U.S. to pay to defend wealthy allies like Japan and South Korea, and should consider pulling out of these countries unless they pay more. In accordance with the current agreement, Seoul paid about half the cost — 944.1 billion won ($782 million) and 932 billion won in 2016 and 2015, respectively. The last SMA was made in 2014, and negotiations for 2019 through 2023 are expected to officially begin early next year.

Officials here are preparing for the possibility that the new U.S. government may begin by unofficially delivering a request for Seoul to raise its ratio of contributions from this year, once its foreign affairs and security teams are formed. "We will actively respond to such a demand," a government official said on condition of anonymity. "Our position is that we are already doing more than enough." He noted that the government is even considering disclosing how much it spends on national defense to Washington to make clear Seoul is doing its share.

Regarding total military spending, the 2016 Defense White Paper, released by the Ministry of National Defense earlier this month, stated that Seoul allocated 2.4 percent of its GDP to national security in 2015, which is larger than the 1 percent for Japan and 1.09 percent for Germany.

Officials also said the government has annually spent about 10 billion won in operating KATUSA, a unique military program initiated during the Korean War, under which Seoul provides the U.S. military with soldiers who speak both English and Korean, allowing for greater functionality and maneuverability of American forces throughout the Korean Peninsula. They will also use the fact that Seoul has spent enormous money in purchasing U.S. weapons to further highlight it is doing its part for the alliance.

According to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration Defense, the nation has spend about 3.6 trillion won from 2006 through October of last year to buy U.S.-made equipment, including Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters, far outpacing what it buys from other countries.
Source : The Korea Times

S. Korea - U.S. Seek Defense Ministers' Talks

South Korea and the United States are arranging their first defense ministers' talks in Seoul next month since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the defense ministry said on Wednesday. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis reportedly plans to visit Japan and South Korea in his first overseas trip after he was named to head the Pentagon.

Mattis and Defense Minister Han Min-koo are expected to mainly discuss ways to cope with North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats, the official said. They are also likely to reaffirm the plan to deploy the THAAD advanced missile defense system in South Korea this year to defend against the North, he said.

Observers say the cost-sharing for U.S. Forces Korea may also be on the agenda as Trump called for U.S. allies to pay more for the upkeep of the U.S. military during his election campaigning (see above article).
Source : Yonhap News


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