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KORUS alliance also beneficial to the U.S.

Posted May. 01, 2017 07:26,   

Updated May. 01, 2017 07:41

한국어

On U.S. President Donald Trump’s remark on the “Korean’s share of the 1 billion dollars on THAAD” during an interview with Reuters on Thursday local time, national security adviser McMaster called his South Korean counterpart Kim Kwan-jin and explained “the remarks were made within the context in line with the general U.S. public expectations on burden-sharing with allies," and conveyed President Trump's firm messaged that the KORUS alliance is the most solid alliance and that it also is the U.S.'s top priority in the Asia-Pacific region. He also said that the U.S. will be with South Korea 100 percent. Still, the matter should not be overlooked even if President Trump's national security advisor swiftly calmed the situation.

Before his interview with Reuters, President Trump also told the Washington Times on Friday that “Why should we pay for it? So I respectfully say that I think it would be appropriate if they (South Korea) paid for it.” Regardless of what his security advisor said, President Trump seems to explicitly convey his message, and that message sent by the president of the United States will be shaped into a detailed policy aimed to us in no time. It is deplorable to see government officials “reaffirming the current agreements.” Such comments come all the more bitterly, when the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy flatly denied that the “review and reform” of the Korea-U.S. FTA mentioned by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his recent visit to Seoul was not a renegotiation.

During the interview with Fox News in October 2015, Trump also revealed his true thoughts on degrading the blood-forged KORUS alliance to a mere interest-driven partnership by telling “And yet, we defend South Korea for practically nothing.“ A year and a half have passed since then, but it seems that Trump has never changed his mind on the bilateral alliance. Indeed, his prevailing thoughts will one day translate into bills. Then it’s time to do the math; is the Seoul-Washington alliance actually beneficial solely to Seoul and a losing deal to Washington?

For starters, South Korea is not enjoying the U.S. military umbrella for free. Nearly 1 trillion won is allotted to support U.S. troops stationed in Korea. The contribution currently figured at around 50 percent for U.S. troops in Korea goes up to 70 to 80 percent when including indirect costs such as tax exemption, public utility fees including water, communications, and electricity, road, port, and airport costs, and railroad transportation subsidiaries. Furthermore, South Korea is one of the nations that import the highest amount of U.S. weapons, and is also burdening 9 trillion won to build a new large U.S. base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

There is no such thing as a lopsided deal, where one continues to gain while the other keeps losing. True, Korea did make quantum leaps based on the KORUS alliance for the past six decades. Still, it is also true that South Korea played a pivotal role in supporting the U.S. global strategy in the Northeast Asian region. President Trump should closely reexamine the true values of the bilateral alliance, calculated gains and losses, and think twice before speaking. After all, the shaking KORUS alliance will only please North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.



angelhuh@donga.com