[Joint Statement] The United States should stop pressing for an unreasonable share of the cost of the U.S. military presence in South Korea
The United States should stop pressing for an unreasonable share of the cost of the U.S. military presence in South Korea
We will never concede to the obligations to participate and support the American performance of its military strategies
Rather than to discuss more contribution, the U.S. should get hands-on coordinating the imbalanced US-ROK alliance
Starting from today (December 17, 2019), the fifth round of the 11th ROK-U.S. Special Measures Agreement (SMA) negotiations will take place in Seoul for two days. The U.S. has been pushing in for an absurd amount and a new establishment of a category that exceeds boundaries of the Status of Forces Agreement(SOFA) and SMA. Under the nominal call of “alliance”, this is an act to impute all costs of U.S. army stations in the Republic of Korea and its India-Pacific strategy. We strongly rebuke the pressure of Trump administration for ROK to take on excessive defense spending share.
Describing ROK a “very wealthy nation”, the U.S. has demanded ROK pay $5 billion (6 trillion Korean won), which is six times its current amount (1.04 trillion won). However, ROK has been affording an increasing portion of costs to keep U.S. military personnel in ROK. Including the cost of the U.S. military presence, the direct and indirect monetary support summed up to 5 trillion won (2015 statistics). It is a mutually recognized fact for both ROK and the U.S. that ROK has been affording more than half (maximum of 65%) of the expenses. The U.S. had not even employed the full budget, and illegally redirected it to fund the Pyeongtaek base transition plan and got benefits from generated interest. The National Assembly’s screening for the tenth negotiation estimates the unexecuted sum amounts to 1.3 trillion won, which is greater than this year’s share of cost. Moreover, because the expansionary relocation plan of Pyeongtaek base (which ROK afforded 90% of the total expense, 11 trillion won) has been completed, there are no looming demands for large scale constructions. This is not a time to ask for an increase, but to go the opposite direction.
Adding on to the figure increase, the U.S. is requesting that ROK start paying for new categories of costs. The Trump administration is now asking Seoul to cover U.S. costs for personnel and their families, joint training sessions, equipment operations like THAAD, rotation of deployment, and exercises outside of ROK but related to the defense of the Korean peninsula. The United States wanted ROK to pay for more categories of expenses that have not been agreed in the previous tenth negotiation. This kind of demand from the U.S. break bounds of SOFA that regulates ROK to only supply the facilities and land while the maintenance fee of the US army is on the US, and SMA which framework covers labor costs, logistics costs, and construction cost only. Besides, we cannot overlook the attempt to dump US’s expenses according to its Indo-Pacific strategies. The strategy to keep China and Russia in check does not help the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula nor peace for East Asia in general. There is no reason for ROK to participate in the militaristic strategy or take up the expenses of the U.S. The ROK government should refuse the U.S. government’s request flatly.
The arrogance of the U.S. precisely reveals the reason why we need to look back on where this alliance stands and to make this straight. The U.S. is pressing for an extension of General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), asking for the deployment of troops to Hormuz of Iran, and is refusing to bear the responsibilities for base decontamination in recent negotiation for military bases return. Washington is neglecting its duty when it is demanding ROK for “contributions as an ally”. Moreover, ROK is providing the U.S. with an army base of the biggest size and also purchased about 35 trillion won worth of American weapons from 2006 until 2018. Due to the disproportionately large supply of American weapons, the South Korean army system of weapon operation and military strategies are critically subordinated to those of the American troops stationed in ROK are already performing roles of rapid maneuver corps in the Asia-Pacific region, which lies beyond the protection of the Korean peninsula. This can be again confirmed from the letter sent by the chairmen of diplomacy and defense from the chamber to Pompeo Secretary of State and Mark Esper Secretary of Defense, which mentioned: “the troops in ROK, around 28 thousand 500 US army are not just there to protect ROK, but to increase national interest”. Here and now is a time to restore the balance of this significantly tilted alliance relationship rather than to increase ROK’s burden.
A share of 6 trillion won exceeds ROK’s 2020 budget designated for diplomacy and unification categories. We cannot possibly pay the U.S. an amount that exceeds our diplomacy conduct. Both governments of Seoul and Washington should be mindful of the meanings of a recently conducted survey that found seven among ten South Korean people answered they cannot accept such an increase in the cost of stationing, even if the troops are downsized. SMA, an exceptional measure of SOFA clause that agrees stationary fees to be responsible to the U.S. in principle, should no longer be exercised to cause offense and increase burdens to the ROK people. Most importantly, there needs to be a fundamental rethink of characteristics, the size, and the share of costs of the stationed troops.
December 17, 2019
This statement endorsed by :
Civil Peace Forum
Korea Women’s Associations United
Korean’s Meeting for Prepared Unification(KMPU)
MINBYUN Committee on U.S. Military Issues
National Council of YMCA’S of Korea (NCYK)
Networks for Green transport
One Korea Tree
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
Reconciliation and Reunification Committee, NCCK (The National Council of Churches in Korea)
Women Making Peace
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