Trump administration official demands $15B from South Korea, report says

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Nov. 21 (UPI) — The Trump administration is asking South Korea to pay as much as $15 billion for the costs of maintaining U.S. troops on and beyond the peninsula, according to a South Korean press report.

Local television network JTBC reported Thursday U.S. State Department negotiator James DeHart recently met with Yoon Sang-hyun, chairman of South Korean parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Yoon told the network DeHart said U.S. troops would cost as much as $15 billion, a staggering number that was not supported by detailed analyses, according to the report.

South Korea currently pays nearly $1 billion annually for keeping 28,500 troops on the peninsula. The new number surpasses the $5 billion the Trump administration has demanded Seoul pay for costs beyond Korea’s borders.

Yoon said DeHart mentioned the cost of undertaking reconnaissance missions, deploying missiles and maintaining a security umbrella beyond the peninsula is “two, three times” the $5 billion amount.

DeHart recently ended negotiations early, raising uneasiness in Seoul. The tactics have been followed by a report from local paper Chosun Ilbo the United States is prepared to withdraw between 4,000 to 5,000 troops, or a brigade, from the peninsula.

U.S. Secretary of State Mark Esper has denied the claim about troop withdrawal. The Pentagon has called for the report’s retraction — describing the article as “irresponsible,” according to South Korean television network SBS.

“I’m always reading articles in the media that are false or inaccurate, or overstated,” Esper said. “We are not threatening allies over this.”

South Korean lawmakers are in Washington this week to meet with members of U.S. Congress.

Oh Shin-hwan of the center-right Bareun Mirae Party said U.S. lawmakers including Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., agreed the cost-sharing demands are “excessive,” while Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly said a resolution considering withdrawal could be proposed if GSOMIA, a military intelligence-sharing agreement between Seoul and Tokyo, is not renewed.

The deal expires on Saturday. Seoul has yet to make a final decision, citing lack of Japanese cooperation on lifting trade penalties.

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