South Korea will pay $60 million more for the upkeep of U.S. troops on its territory—this after President Donald Trump demanded that Seoul boost its contribution. The two nations inked a short-term deal on Feb. 10 increasing South Korea’s annual bill by 6.75 percent to almost $1 billion.
On the campaign trail, Trump promised American voters he would fight to secure fair deals for the United States on the world stage. American media has been relentless in its doubts about Trump’s ability to get military partners to pony up more for the invaluable protection America provides its allies. But the President has had the last laugh–getting all of its partners, so far, to pay more. America’s NATO allies have boosted military spending by $100 billion after similar demands from Trump.
The South Korean Parliament has to approve the agreement before it becomes final. Unlike prior deals, which have lasted five years, the one signed on Feb. 10 expires in one year. Bargaining for 2020 funding is likely to restart in months.
“It has been a very long process, but ultimately a very successful process,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a meeting before another official from the foreign ministry signed the agreement.
The U.S. State Department’s senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements, Timothy Betts, met Kang before signing the agreement on behalf of the United States and told her the money represented a small but important part of South Korea’s support for the alliance.
“The United States government realizes that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region,” he said.
About 70 percent of South Korea’s payment funds the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean workers who provide administrative, technical, and other services for the U.S. military. Late last year, the U.S. military had warned the South Korean employees on its bases that they may be put on leave from mid-April if no agreement was reached.
Seoul and Washington have held 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump’s calls for South Korea to pay more. South Korean officials pushed for a three-year deal keeping their annual contribution around $864 billion. U.S. officials demanded as much as $1.2 trillion per year.
The allies worked to finalize an agreement in order to minimize the impact on South Koreans working on U.S. military bases, and focus on nuclear talks ahead of a second U.S.-North Korea summit, Seoul officials said.