Seoul proposes to buy $1 billion of US weapons

13-Dec-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

In an apparent move to reduce South Korea’s financial contribution to maintaining the 28,500 United States Forces Korea troops here, the government has proposed purchasing up to $1 billion worth of US weapons, officials directly involved with the issue told The Korea Times, Thursday.

“The South Korean team in the defense cost-sharing negotiations suggested a revised proposal to the United States. This included a Korea’s plan to purchase up to $1 billion worth of US weapons by the end of 2020,” one official said.

“The government is seeking more inventive ways and applicable plans to reduce US pressure on Seoul to pay more for defense. On a possible shopping list of US-made defense products for South Korea could be advanced surveillance aircraft, along with the possible co-development of an anti-missile system between South Korean and US defense contractors,” another official said.

“The Trump administration is viewing the defense-cost sharing deal as a cost-benefit analysis. That means Trump’s demand for $5 billion was arbitrary as he only wants the US to pay less.”

The government’s position is that this isn’t a form of US economic protectionism as it also has key security ramifications. Defense analysts say mixing US weapons with other countries’ defense systems could possibly lead to the discovery of weaknesses in the American products.

The latest round of defense cost-sharing talks were broken off after the US asked for roughly $5 billion to cover USFK expenditure, over five times the roughly $800 million South Korea paid for this year. Seoul had previously agreed to cover 90 percent of the $10.7 billion cost of relocating US military bases in the capital, and still provides land rent-free for current installations.

Regarding the US demand, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) sided with the country’s opposition parties’ protests, saying next year’s Special Measures Agreement (SMA) should be reached according to “fair and equitable principles.”

The officials, said it was unlikely that the government would purchase more stealth fighters beyond an earlier agreed number. North Korea strongly condemned the decision to purchase the F-35As saying their deployment was aimed at attacking its regime.

South Korea is one of the biggest buyers of US-made weapons ? from 2008 to 2017, it bought $6.7 billion worth. Saudi Arabia and Australia are the only countries that bought more than South Korea during the period, according to government data. Japan bought $3.7 billion worth of US weapons over the same timeframe.

Seoul could also agree to pay for the cleanup cost of US military bases returned to it as a strategy in the SMA negotiations.

In related news, US President Donald Trump urged Congress to pass a defense bill containing a provision restricting the drawdown of US troops in South Korea. The new bill restricts the use of funds to remove troops stationed here, a key issue that has drawn intense scrutiny amid the deadlocked cost-sharing talks.


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