Korean lawmaker says Trump demands way too much
Washington reportedly asks Seoul for a 400 percent jump for its armed forces here, from this year’s $1billion to $5 billion in 2020. That appears to be too much because the troops’ annual cost for operation and maintenance is less than $2.3 billion.
According to the Operation And Maintenance Overview Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Estimates, which was reported by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense this March, the 2020 cost is projected to be $2.218 billion.
The $5 billion figure is even bigger than the total cost of US Forces Korea (USFK), which includes military personnel, military construction, family housing, and revolving funds to amount to $4.464 billion.
Against this backdrop, observers point out that the budget estimates are in line with a recent CNN report that US President Donald Trump pulled the figure out of thin air.
Since Trump took office, he has repeatedly forced South Korea to pony up additional money for USFK. Last year, he asked for a 50 percent increase from Seoul to get only an 8 percent rise.
Citing congressional aides and Korea experts, CNN noted that US State and Defense Department officials are “scrambling to justify the number with a slew of new charges that may include Seoul paying some costs for US personnel present on the peninsula and for troops and equipment that rotate through.”
“The price hike has frustrated Pentagon officials and deeply concerned Republican and Democratic lawmakers, according to military officials and congressional aides. It has angered and unnerved Seoul, where leaders are questioning US commitment to their alliance and wondering whether Trump will pull US forces if they don’t pay up.”
Many Seoul analysts argue that such an approach violates the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which is superior to the cost-sharing pact between the two countries called the Special Measures Agreement (SMA).
They claim that the US cannot demand for South Korea to pay an entire range of personnel cost for USFK because it is against the SOFA, which lays the legal foundation of USFK.
Article 5 of the SOFA stipulates that South Korea provides the land and facilities while the US covers the whole expenditure of stationing and maintaining USFK on the peninsula.
Rep. Song Young-gil of the ruling Democratic Party said that the 2020 budget estimates show that Trump demands way too much.
He said, “requesting South Korea to pay a figure bigger than a whole range of personnel cost for USFK would turn American troops into mercenaries.”
This article is provided by UPI News Korea. _ ED.