Trump is demanding that South Korea pay roughly 500% more in 2020 to cover the cost of keeping US troops on the peninsula, a congressional aide and an administration official confirmed to CNN.
The price hike has frustrated Pentagon officials and deeply concerned Republican and Democratic lawmakers, according to military officials and congressional aides. It has angered and unnerved Seoul, where leaders are questioning US commitment to their alliance and wondering whether Trump will pull US forces if they don’t pay up.
“Nothing says I love you like a shakedown,” said Vipin Narang, an associate professor at MIT who follows the Korean peninsula, summarizing South Korean uncertainty about the US.
In the US, congressional aides and Korea experts familiar with the talks say the President’s $4.7 billion demand came out of thin air, sending State and Defense Department officials scrambling to justify the number with a slew of new charges that may include Seoul paying some costs for US personnel present on the peninsula and for troops and equipment that rotate through.
Negotiations are underway as North Korea threatens to step up its weapons development, deepening Seoul’s anxiety. On Thursday, Pyongyang condemned US-South Korean joint military exercises, saying it was “enraged” and threatening to respond with “force in kind.”
North Korea has already launched 24 missiles this year, each a violation of UN resolutions, to match the country’s previous annual record for firing off…