I think who ever the next ROK president is will find it politically very difficult to pay for the THAAD deployment like President Trump is now requesting. I think this may just be something President Trump is doing as a bargaining chip for future US-ROK Free Trade Agreement renegotiations which is something else he has been wanting. I guess we will see what happens:
In the top left photo, elements of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery are being installed on a former golf course in Seongju, North Gyeongsang Province, Friday. In the bottom left photo, members of the Korean Federation of Environmental Movements stage a protest against the deployment of the anti-missile system at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, Friday. In the right photo, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Department of the Interior in Washington, Wednesday. Trump said in an interview with Reuters Thursday that Seoul should pay the cost for the battery which is around $1 billion. / AP-Yonhap
U.S. President Donald Trump has abruptly demanded that Seoul pay $1 billion for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here, stoking negative public sentiment against the anti-missile system.
In response to the unexpected, deal-breaking remark, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday that Washington should pay any costs in accordance with the two countries’ Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that governs the treatment of U.S. forces stationed here.
Trump’s comments were squarely against the allies’ previous agreement, reached based on SOFA, which calls for South Korea to provide the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) with the site for the anti-missile shield and other infrastructure, and for the U.S. to bear the cost of deployment and operation.
The government provided the USFK with land in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, previously owned by Lotte Group, April 20.
Trump’s surprise remarks are adding fuel to the ongoing controversy over the deployment of the THAAD battery, giving objectors another reason to oppose it, along with fierce protests from local residents over the system’s possible environmental risks.
During an interview with Reuters, Thursday, President Trump said the THAAD system was to protect South Korean people, questioning why the U.S. should pay for that.
“On the THAAD system, it’s about a billion dollars. I said, ‘Why are we paying? Why are we paying a billion dollars? We’re protecting,'” he said. “So, I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid.”
Stressing that the battery is “phenomenal” and “the most incredible” equipment to shoot down enemy missiles, he continued: “We’re going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that.” [Korea Times]
Here is the ROK political reaction to President Trump’s demand:
Presidential front-runner Moon has been opposing the deployment of the U.S.-led antimissile defense system in Korea.
“The deployment and management of the Thaad system must be paid for by the U.S. government, as agreed upon initially between the two governments,” said People’s Party Rep. Son Kum-ju, chief spokesman of the presidential campaign of Ahn Cheol-soo. “But if there were disagreements on the bilateral agreement to deploy the defense system, the agreement must be tabled for approval at the National Assembly.”
The Park Geun-hye administration last July said the deployment requires no approval by the National Assembly, but liberal opposition parties that are against the placement said the matter should be deliberated and ratified by the lawmakers.
“The People’s Party also opposes renegotiating the Korea-U.S. FTA. It is only right that two countries stick to agreements they have reached together,” Son added.
Some lawmakers went so far as to request the cancellation of the agreement over Thaad.
“We would rather the U.S. government take back the Thaad battery if it’s going to make the South Korean government pay for it,” said Rep. Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party, also a candidate for the presidential election, in a campaign speech on Friday at Hongik University Station in western Seoul. “The South Korean people have not asked for Thaad.” [Joong Ang Ilbo]
It will be interesting to see how this turns out.