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U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo at the Pentagon. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, speak during a news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, Feb. 24, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Can the U.S.-South Korea Alliance Weather Another Trump ‘Shakedown’?

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020

In what has been called a “protection racket” and a “blatant shakedown,” President Donald Trump is again pressuring South Korea to increase its contribution to the costs of maintaining U.S. military bases in the country.

The mafia-esque terminology employed by commentators seems apt given Trump’s shocking initial demand for a fivefold increase in Seoul’s share of American basing costs, from around $900 million per year to nearly $5 billion. While U.S. negotiators have reportedly climbed down from that position, the two sides have yet to find common ground after six rounds of negotiations, heightening fears of a lasting standoff that could negatively affect American troop readiness and undermine relations with a key U.S. ally. ...

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