It’s all about the Benjamins, baby:
The United States broke off talks with South Korea on Tuesday over how to share the cost of the two nations’ military alliance, injecting fresh tension into the relationship over Washington’s demands that Seoul pay sharply more.
President Trump has demanded South Korea raise fivefold its contribution to cover the cost of stationing 28,500 U.S. troops in the country, asking for nearly $5 billion, officials on both sides said. But that demand has triggered anger from Korean lawmakers and sparked concerns that Trump may decide to reduce the U.S. troop presence in the Korean Peninsula if talks break down.
The top U.S. negotiator, James DeHart, said the U.S. side decided to cut short the negotiations on Tuesday morning, the second of two days of planned talks. In a rare public show of disunity between the allies, he blamed South Korea for making proposals that “were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing.”
“As a result we cut short our participation in the talks today in order to give the Korea side time to reconsider,” he said in a statement. “We look forward to resuming our negotiations when the Korean side is ready to work on the basis of partnership, on the basis of mutual trust.”
I guess our troops are still mercenaries in his eyes. The thing where he made the Marines troops for hire by Saudi Arabia was not a one-time thing.
There is a disturbing pattern here. Trump praises North Korea and antagonizes South Korea. He praises Putin and antagonizes England. He praises Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman, and Duterte, and antagonizes the leaders of France, Germany, and Canada.
I don’t think he’s a paid stooge of Putin. But if he were, it’s hard to see how he might act differently.
P.S. Inevitably people will argue that this is just a negotiation tactic, and that Trump is just an awesome negotiator (he’s actually a terrible one but put that fact aside for the moment). If that’s the defense, it just reveals the fact that I’m bothered by the idea of cost-sharing to begin with. If it’s in our interest to have troops in South Korea, it’s in our interest to have troops in South Korea. Let’s separate the issue of cost from whether we are going to have troops there, and make cost-sharing a factor in how much foreign aid they get, not whether we are stationing troops there to begin with. There is no amount of money we should take that is high enough to do something that is not in our national interest, and no amount of money low enough that we should do something that is not in our national interest.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]