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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump wants South Korea to pay for US THAAD missile system

(April 30) Trump is now showing not how the US can make friends and influence people but how to alienate its South Korean friends. Trump is asking South Korea to pay the $1 billion cost of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

For good measure Trump is questioning the trade deal between the two countries. In an interview with Reuters Trump said: "I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they pay. That's a billion dollar system." The system is supposed to protect South Korea against an attack from the North. However, Russia and China both have objected to the system complaining that it could be directed against them and enable the US to have a first strike capacity in attacking either of them. There are also tensions within South Korea with many protesting the deployment system as shown on the appended video.
Euan Graham, director of the international security program of the Lowy Institute said: "It's collateral damage to the [U.S.-South Korea] alliance." The South Korean Defense Minister, Han Min-koon, has said several times that South Korea will not pay for the program:"There has been no change in our basic position that the South Korean government provides the site and infrastructure for THAAD ... and the U.S. side shoulders the cost of its deployment, operation and maintenance." A South Korean official said that there was a confidential agreement signed last year by senior officials from both countries that the US would bear the cost of deploying THAAD. I expect that the US was the one pushing for the deployment so it could be used potentially against China and Russia. The South Koreans no doubt made it quite clear they were unwilling to take on the one billion cost.
The plans for the system were in place in July of last year before the election of Trump. South Korea and the US have a mutual defense treaty. There are more than 28,000 US troops in the South but no Chinese troops in North Korea. However, there are rumors that China has deployed up to 150,000 troops on its border with the north, though they appear to be unfounded. Trump told Reuters concerning South Korea: "We're going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that." Sometimes it seems as if Trump considers the US is running a sort of protection racket for a number of countries and that they should be paying for the protection. However, the US is projecting its own power and protecting the interest of itself and its allies by such expenditures. It also creates jobs and profits for stakeholders in the military-industrial complex.
Trump seems blissfully unaware that THAAD is an important issue in the upcoming South Korean presidential election on May 9. However, at least some of his administration are aware as they seem anxious to deploy the system before a new and less anti-North government and president are installed. There could be even more problems over THAAD as well as Trump's complaints about the US South Korea trade deal. after the new government takes office.
The US assured South Korea that it will pay the one billion dollar cost of the THAAD anti-missile system deployed in South Korea. In a telephone call Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster assured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-Jun that the US alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region. The South Korean Blue House said that McMaster said Trump's comments were made in a general context in line with Trump's expectations that there should be more defense cost burden-sharing with allies.
A top foreign policy adviser to Moon Jae-in the front runner in the presidential race called the South Korean payment for the THAAD system an impossible option. Kim Ki-Jung a professor at Yonsei University in Seoul said: "Even if we purchase THAAD, its main operation would be in the hands of the United States. So purchasing it would be an impossible option. That was our topic when we were considering the options." Moon has yet to officially comment on Trump's remarks. Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies said: "Trump's remarks reflect his persistent desire for allies to pay more for their defense. As far as their impact on South Korea's election, they will likely boost support for Moon, and if he wins, it will make it harder for the U.S. to sustain a hard-line policy against North Korea. So Trump's remarks don't seem very strategic to me." This is an understatement. Trump hardly thinks at all except in terms of his own pet ideas. The South Koreans hardly count in terms of what their own interests might be. Trumps' minders have a hopeless job.


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