Seoul pushes back at Trump claims about more money for troop agreement

South Korean protesters shout slogans and hold banners during a rally on Jan 31 against the agreement for Seoul to pay more towards maintaining US troops in the country.
South Korean protesters shout slogans and hold banners during a rally on Jan 31 against the agreement for Seoul to pay more towards maintaining US troops in the country.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's presidential Blue House pushed back on Wednesday (Feb 13) against comments by United States President Donald Trump that suggested Seoul had agreed to pay US$500 million (S$677 million) more towards maintaining US troops in the country.

Mr Trump said at a Cabinet meeting in Washington on Tuesday that Seoul had agreed to pay US$500 million more as part of an agreement sharing the cost of keeping roughly 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea.

"They were paying about US$500 million for US$5 billion worth of protection," Mr Trump said. "And we have to do better than that. So they've agreed to pay US$500 million more."

Under the previous agreement - which lapsed amid disagreements in December - South Korea contributed 960 billion won (S$1.16 billion) in 2018.

South Korean and American officials initialled an agreement on Sunday, under which Seoul would increase its contribution to just under 1.04 trillion won, an increase of about US$70.3 million.

Mr Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul, when asked about Mr Trump's US$500 million figure, said that it "shouldn't be taken as a fait accompli".

Washington demanded during the negotiations that South Korea pay 50 per cent more than its 2018 contribution, according to South Korean officials. The new agreement amounts to an increase of about 8 per cent.

 

The agreement signed on Sunday must still be approved by South Korea's Parliament. Mr Kim said it was valid for only one year, with the possibility of an extension for another year if both sides agreed.

"Both sides will consider whether a raise is needed and it's also possible that they would agree to maintain the current level," he said.

The two sides have struggled to reach a breakthrough, despite at least 10 rounds of talks since last March and amid Mr Trump's repeated calls for a sharp increase in South Korea's contribution.