Published: Sat, November 16, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Pentagon chief open to military adjustment in Korean Peninsula

Pentagon chief open to military adjustment in Korean Peninsula

During a joint news conference with his South Korean counterpart on Friday, Esper lauded the United States' "very strong alliance" with Seoul, but added: "Korea is a wealthy country and should and could pay more to help offset the cost of defense".

"North Korea is waiting for a courageous decision from the US with patience, while being prepared to take "a new path" which was declared in (Kim Jong-un's) New Year's address", the Japan-based Chosun Sinbo communist propaganda outlet said in a recent editorial.

America's general has warned North Korea that the US will not hesitate to bring its full military force to bear in defense of its allies in the south, following Pyongyang's threat of escalation over stalled denuclearization talks.

South Korean officials, along with many military and diplomatic experts in the USA, expressed concerns that Trump's demand could be seen as a shakedown, or the first step in an effort to withdraw US troops entirely from the Korean peninsula.

"It is crucial that we conclude the SMA with increased burden sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year", Esper said, referring to the official name of South Korea. This year it is almost $1 billion.

The North has set the end-of-year ultimatum to propose a new way forward, and has repeatedly warned that time is running out.

On his flight to South Korea, Esper did say the USA was seeking a "substantial increase" in Seoul's contribution, but he wouldn't be any more specific.

South Korean media reports suggest Washington has demanded a new cost-sharing pact where Seoul commits to $5 billion next year.

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He plans to hold bilateral talks with the South Korean defense minister on the sidelines Sunday.

"The only ones who will benefit from expiration of GSOMIA and continued friction between Seoul and Tokyo are Pyongyang and Beijing", the Pentagon chief said.

The neighbors are embroiled in a trade row stemming from long-running disputes over wartime history, and Seoul announced in August it would terminate the General Security of Military Agreement (GSOMIA) when it expires next week.

"Japan imposed trade restrictions and removed South Korea from its white list, saying it can't trust Seoul for issues surrounding security", he said.

During a meeting with Esper and Milley later on Friday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it was hard to share intelligence with Japan which raised security concerns in restricting exports, though he acknowledged the need for three-way cooperation, Moon's spokeswoman told a briefing.

Relations between the neighbors plunged after South Korea's top court previous year ordered Japanese firms to compensate some wartime forced laborers.

Esper said he would also ask Japan to make efforts for an amicable resolution of the issue.

"In case of South Korea, which has provided a fair amount of support in the past ... it is important to note that most of that money stays here in the country".

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