US urges S Korea to pay more for troops and ease tension with Japan

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper speaks during a press briefing with Minister of National Defense of South Korea Jeong Kyeong-doo after the Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 15, 2019. (DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

Seoul (dpa) – South Korea needs to pay more to support the presence of the United States military on its soil, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in Seoul on Friday.

Speaking alongside his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong Doo, Esper also called for a military agreement between South Korea and Japan to be renewed when it expires, amid tensions between the two East Asian US allies.

“South Korea is a wealthy country and could, and should, offset the cost of defence,” Esper said. “It is crucial that we conclude the 11th SMA (Special Measures Agreement) with increased burden sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year.”

But he also stressed US commitment to the defence of South Korea, terming the alliance “ironclad.”

Esper described the 2016 GSOMIA accord between Japan and South Korea as “an important tool by which South Korea, the US and Japan share effective information, particularly in times of war.”

The only beneficiaries of its termination would be North Korea and China, he said.

Seoul has indicated it does not intend to renew GSOMIA, an important source of information for Washington on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

The US has long called for its Asian allies to make greater contributions to the cost of stationing US troops in the region.

According to media reports, Washington wants Seoul to contribute 5 billion dollars a year for the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, around five times what it currently pays.

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