The Korean government is once again playing their delay games:
South Korea and the United States have failed to narrow differences over how to share joint defense costs to maintain 28,000 U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula, a government official said Tuesday.
Senior defense officials from the two nations met in Washington, D.C. Monday to discuss the defense cost-sharing issue, the official said.
During the one-day meeting, the United States called on South Korea to pay more to reach the 50-50 level in tune with Seoul’s growing economy and increased responsibility for national defense.
Washington also wanted to use the burden-sharing funds to relocate its military bases to south of the Han River.
Seoul officials, however, were skeptical about the proposals. They wanted to provide military equipment and materials to the U.S. military instead of offering host-nation funds in cash. [Korea Times]
The goods instead of cash proposal is something the Korean government has been trying to get the US to agree to because providing goods is cheaper then paying cash and by not paying cash prevents USFK from being able to relocate to Camp Humphreys because there would be no funding to do so. Since South Korea backed out of properly funding the USFK relocation, USFK has proposed using upkeep money to pay for the relocation which the Korean government is now trying to prevent from happening.
Here is the amount of money Korea paid the last two years for USFK upkeep that they are now trying to get reduced:
Seoul contributed 741.5 billion won ($787 million) under the 2006 Special Measurement Agreement, in which South Korea agreed to pay 725.5 billion, up 45.1 billion won from 2006, to the United States in 2007 and increase its level in 2008 in accordance with a rise in the consumer price index.
The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) argues the figure represents some 41 percent of non-personnel stationing costs covering the salaries of Korean employees at U.S. bases, Korean contractors and service agents, as well as military construction, logistics procurements and maintenance and munitions storage. [Korea Times]
Notice that the money South Korea pays primarily goes to pay Korean workers; so basically it is Korean money paying for Korean jobs. Also take note that South Korea pays far less per year in USFK upkeep fees then what they send to North Korea every year. So in essence the South Korean government pays more to the regime sworn to destroy the nation and less to the nation committed to defend it.
Here is another gimmick the Korean government is trying to get USFK to agree to which that have tried to pull before:
Seoul officials do not agree with the U.S. calculation on Seoul’s proportion of burden sharing. They said the difference over the proportion of host-nation funds between the two governments resulted from different ways of assessing the values of host-nation support programs.
For instance, South Korea provides about 27,000 reinforcement troops called KATUSAs (Korea Augmentation Troops to the U.S. Army) to the USFK for free as part of a host-nation support program.
The value of the KATUSA program would be at least $50 million a year on the assumption that a KATUSA soldier is paid $1,500 per month, the officials said.
This is of course a lie because KATUSA soldier does not make $1,500 per month, more like $15 a month. KATUSA’s like much of the ROK Army conscripts are paid next to nothing which is another South Korean governmental travesty.
I fully expect the Korean negotiators to keep playing these same games and then watch them try to play the anti-US card by saying they can’t possibly reach a cost sharing agreement because of the threat of anti-US protests that could sink the US-ROK FTA.
While the nonsense of the cost sharing negotiations goes on, the Korean government has once again announced another construction delay at the Camp Humphreys relocation site:
The ongoing project to relocate frontline U.S. troops here to south of Seoul will likely be delayed by at least a few months as Seoul plans to change its base construction plans, officials said Tuesday.
A special construction review committee of the Defense Ministry will be convened Wednesday to decide whether to initiate the envisioned change, a move that could delay the multi-billion-dollar relocation project by up to one year, according to ministry officials. [Yonhap]
The last delay put the Camp Humphreys relocation project’s completion at 2016 and now there is another delay that is putting the relocation at 2017. As I mentioned before the Korean government is able to create a city on reclaimed ocean quicker then it can expand a military base that is a key aspect of its defense alliance with its most important ally.
The Korean government has never wanted the USFK relocation to happen for a variety of reasons and the only reason it has gotten as far as it has was because of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s threat to withdraw USFK which was made quite clear with the redeployment of 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division from the Korean peninsula along with a host of other troop cuts. A few days after Rumsfeld resigned from office the Korean government immediately reneged on the transformation deal and announced the first delay of the Camp Humphreys relocation to 2012.
Since then the delays have only increased and now the Korean government wants to spend even less money for the maintenance of the US-ROK alliance. It is all so predictable and as long as the political will in Washington remains the way it is the USFK gravy train will continue to roll at the expense of the welfare of US soldiers forced to serve a year in Korea separated from their families while also living in sub-standard living conditions. Obviously few people in Seoul or Washington care about that.