U.S. military cost sharing puts greater burden on South Korea, report says

The United States maintains 28,500 troops on the Korean Peninsula. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

Oct. 15 (UPI) — The United States says Seoul should increase its contribution to $4.8 billion for basing 28,500 troops — more than Japan paid for U.S. bases for 50,000 troops in 2017.

The operation and maintenance costs of the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula have been doubled ahead of new demands, as South Korea is being required to pay more, according to a South Korean press report.

News 1 reported Monday the U.S. Department of Defense has increased operation and maintenance costs for U.S. Forces Korea to $2.237 billion, up from $1.031 billion of March 2018.

The report comes at a time when the United States and South Korea are in the middle of resuming negotiations for the 11th Special Measures Agreement.

According to News 1, U.S. operational costs have been set higher in South Korea than in Japan, where about 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed around the country.

Other numbers from the Pentagon have also risen dramatically amid complaints from President Donald Trump that U.S. allies do not pay their fair share for American troops stationed overseas.

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The cost of keeping U.S. troops in South Korea was estimated to be about $3 billion, but that number climbed in 2019 to $4.4 billion, according to News 1.

U.S. demands and reports alleging Washington seeks a five-fold increase, or $5 billion, in South Korean contributions to burden sharing have triggered protests in Korea. Activists have said Trump’s demands are excessive and force South Korea to foot the bill for U.S. defense costs beyond Korea’s borders.

U.S. diplomats in Seoul have said South Korea does not pay enough.

Ambassador Harry B. Harris said in a recent interview South Korea pays only one-fifth of the cost of the U.S. military presence. In February, South Korea agreed to raise its contribution by 8.2 percent and pay $915 million. Harris said Seoul should increase its contributions to $4.8 billion, according to the Donga Ilbo.

That number would exceed the compensation Japan paid for U.S. basing costs, $4.4 billion, for 50,000 troops, in 2017.

Military cost sharing has not increased for Tokyo at the same rate despite the larger U.S. troop presence in Japan.

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