Asia Minute: New Leader for Talks on Paying for U.S. Troops in South Korea

Aug 5, 2020

It’s been a week since U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced plans to withdraw nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany. In the Asia Pacific, that has brought new attention to talks going on about U.S. forces in South Korea.

The United States has a new point person leading talks with South Korea about cost-sharing when it comes to U.S. forces stationed there.

Donna Welton is a career diplomat who has served in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia among other postings. She’ll pick up on discussions that have been going on since before the last cost-sharing agreement expired at the end of last year.

President Trump rejected a tentative agreement that was reached in late March about paying for the approximately 28,500 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.

While these developments have not received a lot of attention in the United States, they have been consistent front-page news in South Korea. The JoongAng Daily reports the Trump Administration is looking for about 1.3 billion dollars from South Korea’s government.

That would be roughly a 50% increase in South Korea’s contribution last year — while the Seoul government is offering an increase of about 13%.

About two weeks ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon is considering “adjustments” to its military presence in South Korea — without going into details.

This week, the State Department announced the same negotiator heading talks with South Korea will also lead discussions on cost-sharing with Japan before that agreement expires at the end of next year.