- The Washington Times - Monday, December 17, 2018

Talks between the White House and South Korea over President Trump’s demands that Seoul to pay more for U.S. military operations on the Korean peninsula have stalled.

Despite repeated rounds of bilateral talks going back to March, American and South Korean negotiators fell short of a final deal over how much the key U.S. ally in the Pacific should subsidize costs tied to the American military mission in Korea.

“We’ve come to agreement on almost all elements but could not make it final because of differences on the total scale of the deal,” a senior South Korean foreign ministry official told Reuters, shortly after the most recent round negotiations wrapped up last week.

The talks are among the first launched by the Trump administration to meet the president’s demands that “rich nations” such as South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia pay more for the American military umbrella that Mr. Trump says protects them from regional threats.

Officials from U.S. Forces-Korea, the main American military command responsible for all operations on the peninsula, warned that continued delays in such talks would lead to a “possible lapse in contributions” from the South Korean military.

American military leaders urged a “swift conclusion” and an agreement between Washington and Seoul on the issue, according to a command statement. News of the stalemate comes as Pentagon officials continue to debate whether to re-start major military exercises between American and South Korean forces this year. Those exercises were suspended, as part of Mr. Trump’s diplomatic efforts to press denuclearization with North Korea after last summer’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

Formal and informal talks to adjust military-to-military pacts between the U.S. and its allies have been an ongoing process for decades, across administrations of both parties. But under the Trump White House, such negotiations have taken on a much tougher, more transactional tone.

Administration opponents argue the White House’s brusque demands threaten to alienate allies and spark resentment abroad. But proponents say Mr. Trump’s tough talk will pay dividends for a U.S. military already stretched thin by is various global commitments.

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