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US-South Korea Alliance Faces Uncertainty

Disagreements over their respective shares of defense costs and wartime operational control have strained the US-South Korea military alliance.

By Han Bingbin Updated Nov.14

Disagreements over defense cost-sharing and wartime operational control have strained the US-South Korea military alliance, says Ling Shengli, secretary-general of the Center for International Security Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, in a new opinion piece for CRI Online.

Ling says US President Donald Trump has asked South Korea to bear all defense expenses – despite South Korea already having complained about what it sees as its unfair share of costs. Disputes over wartime operational control have also strained the relationship, with South Korea fearing being drawn into a potential future war, the scholar said.

On the trade front, Trump's repeated criticism of the two nations' Free Trade Agreement, which he has partly blamed for a rising US trade deficit, has also created friction, Ling said. South Korea’s newly-elected President Moon Jae-in previously led a trade mission to the US intending to resolve the disagreement, but was unsuccessful. 

Ling said trade had been a key issue in Trump’s recent visit to South Korea, and senior trade officials accompanied the president. But the scholar claimed the South Korean public has interpreted negatively the fact that Trump stayed only two days and one night in the nation – two days fewer than in Japan. Although Moon Jae-in has made great pains to improve the relationship, bilateral ties are racked with uncertainty, he said.