By Riyaz ul Khaliq
Turns out, it took U.S. President Donald Trump just "a couple of phone calls" to convince Seoul to pay an extra $500 million to help cover for the expenses of the American troops stationed in South Korea.
"Billions of dollars a year defending them. They agreed, at my request [...] to pay more toward their defense [...] Five-hundred million, with a couple of phone calls," Korean news agency Yonhap quoted Trump as telling his Cabinet members Tuesday.
However, according to Yonhap, the figure Trump claimed that South Korea had agreed to pay does not match up with what Seoul said it had officially promised.
According to the formal figures cited by Yonhap, South Korea has agreed to increase its contribution only by 8.2 percent to some 1.04 trillion won ($920 million) under a one-year defense cost-sharing deal with Washington, just $67 million more over the last year's amount.
In 2018, Seoul paid 960 billion won ($853 million) for the wages of South Korean civilian workers at U.S. bases and other costs, the news report said.
Trump's somehow misguided revelation comes a few days after the U.S. and South Korea signed a preliminary defense agreement renewing their cost-sharing deal for the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces there.
South Korea's presidential office has dismissed the possibility of an imminent increase in the country's share.
"In the latest negotiations, (the sides) set the duration of their agreement at one year. But (the agreement) can be extended by one year when the two sides agree (to do so)," Yonhap quoted Seoul presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom as telling a news briefing Wednesday.
"Therefore, the sides may decide to keep it at the current level after reviewing the need for an increase. And so, I hope (they) will not treat this issue of an increase as an established fact," he added.
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