- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2019

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper on Friday stood by the Trump administration’s demand that South Korea pay more for U.S. military protection, saying the “wealthy” country is fully capable of ponying up additional money to cover the costs of the 28,500 American troops stationed there.

Speaking after meetings with top officials in Seoul, Mr. Esper said South Korea “is a wealthy country and could and should pay more” for U.S. forces.

“It is crucial that we conclude [negotiations] … with increased burden-sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year,” Mr. Esper said, according to Reuters.

The Trump administration in February struck a new deal with Seoul that increased South Korea’s contribution to about $924 million this year, up from about $830 million in 2018.

While the U.S. hasn’t formally floated a new figure, South Korean lawmakers have publicly said that the administration has asked for as much as $5 billion per year — a figure that leaders in Seoul have all but dismissed.

South Korean officials said the next round of defense cost-sharing negotiations will be held next week in Seoul.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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