If President-elect Donald Trump demands South Korea pay more for U.S. protection, it will have no choice but to pay up, a South Korean defense official revealed Monday.
“If there is a huge demand for more burden on the part of (South Korea), Korea will inevitably have to embrace that,” Chang Myoung-jin, South Korea’s minister for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), asserted Monday at a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) event.
Chang emphasized that South Korea is heavily dependent on the U.S. for its defense.
Some of Trump’s comments on the campaign trail, particularly those related to America’s Asian allies, alarmed South Korean officials.
The president-elect repeatedly criticizes South Korea for not paying its fair share for the protection provided by the U.S. “We defend South Korea … We defend these countries. They do not pay us what they should be paying us, because we are providing a tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune,” Trump explained during the first debate, signaling a strong interest in adjusting existing defense arrangements with U.S. allies.
After winning the election, Trump told South Korea that the U.S. would continue to support its long-time ally under his administration. “We are with you all the way, and we will not waver,” Trump told South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Nonetheless, there are still concerns that Trump will demand that South Korea take on a greater share of the defense costs.
Seoul currently contributes around $848 million, about 50 percent of the total cost, for the 28,000 American troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula, reports the Korea Times.
Chang acknowledged the importance of the U.S.-South Korean alliance in the face of growing threats from North Korea, China, and Russia. He argued that the country should do what it must and stressed that South Korea’s first priority must be defense.
South Korea should also boost its national defense budget, even if it means cutting welfare and other services, he added.
“The current weapons system that we already have in place will have to be maintained continuously and, on top of that, whatever that is lacking in our current weapons system will have to be complemented and enhanced, and whatever has been aging will have to be replaced,” Chang explained, “The welfare budget has been on a steady increase, which has had some restricting impact on our defense budget … But our focus and priority will have to be on putting our first priority on defense.”
South Korea’s 2017 defense budget is $40 billion. Twelve billion dollars will be dedicated to enhancing South Korea’s defense capabilities.
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