Asia Minute: U.S. Defense Secretary Heading to Asia

Jan 30, 2017

Defense Secretary James Mattis
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Defense Secretary James Mattis leaves on his first overseas trip in office later this week. He’s heading for South Korea and then Japan.  HPR’s Bill Dorman has more on the travels in today’s Asia Minute.


Nearly 30 thousand U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea…more than 50 thousand in Japan.

That presence alone shows the importance of both countries to U.S. foreign policy and regional strategy.

During his confirmation hearings, Defense Secretary James Mattis said U.S. allies should “carry their fair share of any kind of defense burden.”  But quantifying what a “fair share” might be is an open question.

An editorial in the Korea Herald said it was important for the Trump administration and Congress to “face the reality that South Korea is paying much more than 'peanuts' for its contributions."

The piece said South Korea pays more than half the costs of U.S. forces and that percentage has risen in recent years.

Japan’s Kyodo News notes that, quote, “Japan…regards its nearly 75 percent contribution as sufficient.”

When it comes to security issues, there’s more to talk about than burden sharing.

In Seoul, there’s the topic of North Korea, and missile defense, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense—or THAAD system led by the U.S., deployed in South Korea and opposed by China.

In Japan, one subject is an increased role for the country’s self-defense forces under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

And as a Marine, Secretary Mattis will be very familiar with the U.S. military presence on Okinawa, and questions about its future amid rising domestic opposition on the Japanese island.