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Future of U.S. Troops in Korea Hangs in Balance as Trump Threatens Withdrawal

Daniel Kim Views  

Yonhap News

On the 10th (local time), South Korea and the United States entered the third round of the 12th Special Measures Agreement (SMA) in Washington D.C. to determine the portion of the cost of stationing U.S. troops in South Korea that will be borne by South Korea after 2026.

The three-day meeting began today and will last until the 12th. Representative for Defense Burden Sharing Lee Tae Woo and Foreign Policy Advisor to the Commander of the United States Linda Specht were in attendance as the chief representatives of South Korea and the United States, respectively.

The two countries previously held the first and second meetings in Hawaii last April and in Seoul last month.

Both sides are expected to enter full-fledged negotiations to coordinate detailed opinions based on the basic positions confirmed in the two previous discussions.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at the time of the meeting schedule announcement, “The government plans to proceed with the negotiations on the premise that our share of defense costs for the stable stationing of U.S. troops in South Korea and the strengthening of the ROK-U.S. joint defense posture should be at a reasonable level.”

The SMA is an agreement that determines the cost of stationing U.S. troops in Korea, including the costs for personnel, military construction, and logistic support. In 2021, the two countries concluded the 11th SMA, which is valid until the end of 2025.

The defense cost-sharing amount determined by the 11th SMA in 2021 was $1 billion, up 13.9% from the previous year.

Meanwhile, the possibility of former President Donald Trump winning the U.S. election in November and returning to power is cited as a variable in this negotiation.

Trump argued for a nearly six-fold increase in defense cost-sharing during his tenure and recently pressured South Korea once again by calling it a rich country South Korea and for it to increase its defense cost-sharing. Trump also suggested the possibility of withdrawing U.S. troops from Korea.

Some view the meeting set on the 12th as a move considering the success of Trump’s re-election as it started a little earlier than usual with about 20 months left until the expiration date. However, there are concerns that the short time could be disadvantageous in negotiations.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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