US, South Korea agree on base cost reimbursement as White House looks...

US, South Korea agree on base cost reimbursement as White House looks for ways to bill other allies

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A map indicating some of the U.S. military facilities around the world (DoD Base Structure Report)

WASHINGTON — South Korea has agreed to increase payment to the United States for the costs of deploying forces on the Korean Peninsula in a move some analysts said is a precursor to future demands by Washington on other military allies.

The announcement was made Friday, less than a week after the Pentagon announced the end to tier one military exercises with South Korea. President Donald Trump had called those exercises a waste of money.

Pentagon officials did not disclose details of the new payments. The new cost-sharing arrangement — first reported by the Associated Press in Seoul — must be approved by the South Korean parliament but not Congress.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris formally signed the agreement at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, on Friday.

There are about 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, the third most behind Germany and Japan. Trump has hinted the U.S. could withdraw some of that force if South Korea did not increase reimbursement.

The agreement comes as the White House continues to develop a plan to bill nations where U.S. troops are deployed — such as German and Japan — to pay the full costs of those deployments, along with a 50 percent surcharge.

According to the 2017 Pentagon’s Base Structure Report, the U.S. maintains a military presence in at least 79 countries, with installations in at least 45 countries. Those can range from major bases, such as those in Germany, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Great Britain, to smaller radar facilities and intelligence outposts.

U.S. Forces Korea personnel on duty at Osan Air Base, about 40 miles south of Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 7.   (U.S. Forces Korea/Twitter)

An installation is described as: “A military base, camp, post, station, yard, center, homeport facility for any ship, or other activity under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense, including leased space, that is controlled by, or primarily supports DoD’s activities. An installation may consist of one or more sites,” the report says.

Bloomberg News first reported elements of the plan. Bloomberg said the plan might be “toned down” and is one of several being considered. The idea sent “shock waves” through the departments of Defense and State, where officials fear the reactions of U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, Bloomberg reported.

Pentagon officials, speaking on background Friday, were chagrined at the idea of dunning allies as outlined in the plan. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis had to work to calm NATO allies who were upset at White House demands that European nations boost defense spending in the alliance accompanied by a threat of leaving the alliance.

Many European allies remain skeptical of Trump’s commitment to military alliances, of which Mattis was a strong supporter. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan attended the most recent NATO meeting of defense ministers and said allies are now reassured.

“We reviewed progress made on fulfilling the Wales Defense Investment Pledge. Our responsibility moving forward must be to translate these investments into real results,” Shanahan said to reporters at the NATO meeting in Brussels on Feb. 14. The Wales pledge refers to the the agreement reached that each NATO nation would spend at least 2 percent of their military budget on NATO.

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