WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he had rejected a sum offered by South Korea in response to his demand that Seoul pay for a larger share of the cost of U.S. military forces deployed there.
“Now they’ve offered us a certain amount of money and I’ve rejected it,” Trump said at a White House news conference, adding that Seoul was paying about a billion dollars a year towards a U.S. troop presence of 28,000-32,000 personnel.
“We’re defending a wonderful nation. We’re asking them to pay for a big percentage of what we’re doing. It’s not fair. … It’s a question of will they contribute toward the defense of their own nation,” Trump added.
U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this month that Trump had rejected a South Korean offer made ahead of that country’s mid-April parliamentary election of an increase of at least 13% from the previous cost-sharing accord.
“We’re doing a tremendous service. We have a wonderful feeling and a wonderful relationship with each other, but we have to be treated equitably and fairly,” Trump said.
When asked about reports that he was negotiating a reduction of U.S. troop numbers with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump appeared to reject this, replying:
“It’s not a question of reduction, it’s a question of, will they contribute toward the defense of their own nation? We’re defending nations that are very wealthy. South Korea’s a very wealthy nation – they make our television sets, they make ships, they make everything.”
Trump said “we’ll find out fairly soon” what would happen with the negotiation.
The White House said at the weekend that Trump spoke to Moon on Saturday and expressed appreciation for South Korea’s help in procuring COVID-19 tests for the United States. It said they also discussed ways to strengthen the security relationship.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason, David Brunnstrom and Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Sandra Maler and Grant McCool)