President Trump Mentions FTA Renegotiation and North Korea Cooperation In First Phone Call with President Moon

This phone call would have likely been much more interesting if President Trump would have repeated his demand for Seoul to pay for the deployment of the THAAD system to Korea:

U.S. President Donald Trump raised the topic of renegotiating a free trade deal with South Korea first before mentioning cooperation on the North Korean nuclear front in a recent phone conversation with Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s new president, an informed official here said Saturday.

“President Trump, during the phone conversation, first delivered congratulatory remarks, then said the FTA should be renegotiated for the mutual interest of both countries,” an official at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea’s presidential office, told Yonhap News Agency Saturday.

Moon and Trump spoke over the phone on Wednesday, vowing to maintain close cooperation in handling North Korea’s nuclear threats.

The official, who was next to Moon as he spoke with Trump, also said the U.S. president mentioned the trade issue “in a light fashion, mentioning it on a principle level” and added that the “focus was on the North Korean nuclear issue.”

Moon reportedly did not offer a particular reply to Trump’s mentioning of renegotiating the trade deal.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

Korea Times Chief Editorial Writer Advocates For Paying More to US For THAAD

Oh Young-jin over at the Korea Times seems to have a better understanding of President Trump than the rest of Korea:

Let’s calm ourselves down.

It’s exasperating to hear U.S. President Trump demand South Korea pay $1 billion for a missile interceptor owned and operated by the U.S. After all, the two allies cut a deal by which Korea provided land for a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, while the U.S. paid for the rest ― hardware and maintenance.

It’s tempting to shout back at Trump and tell him that we don’t want it so he can take it back.

But here are some sobering questions.

Can we defend ourselves without U.S. forces? The South excels the North in the size of economy many times and is more than double it in terms of population. So the answer to this question is yes, we can.

But if so, what extra cost would we have to pay for their absence? Billions of dollars would be needed to make up for the U.S. Forces Korea with its 28,000 American troops stationed here. They serve as a tripwire to bring in bigger and more powerful reinforcements ― the so-called extended deterrence (nuclear umbrella) included ― from the U.S. in the event of a war. The tab for this is uncountable because it has worked as the bedrock for Korea’s sense of security for decades.

Would you be willing to pay that extra cost? The bulk of the budget for welfare, infrastructure and other key state affairs would have to be diverted to cover our own defense spending. This means bigger tax bills for fewer services. Then, the security void that would be created by the U.S. withdrawal would have foreign investors rethink their plans involving Korea.

THAAD can turn this chain of hypotheses into reality. (……….) Now, it is important to think of how Trumpian arithmetic works.

Trump is a “successful” businessman and showbiz celebrity.

Therefore, he shuns money-losing businesses and sticks to the “beneficiary-pays” principle. This characteristic reflects his demand for Korea’s THAAD payment as he sees the U.S. as a benefactor and Korea as a beneficiary so he thinks it is natural for Seoul to pay.  [Korea Times]

You can read the rest at the link, but Mr. Oh advocates for paying Trump off by having a pro-rated cost for use of the THAAD system each year. This gets back to my belief this whole topic is about the USFK cost sharing negotiations next year which President Trump wants the Korean government to understand they need to pay more for advanced US capabilities.

By the way I still love Mr. Oh’s email:  

South Korea Claims They Have Already Paid Over $1 Billion for THAAD Due to Chinese Economic Retaliation

Like I have said before President Trump’s comments about paying more for the THAAD system is setting conditions for next year’s negotiations for USFK cost sharing:

U.S. President Donald Trump should know that South Korea has already paid more than what he has billed the country for the deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery here, analysts said Tuesday.

Trump has insisted that Korea pay $1 billion for the anti-missile shield and his top aides also claim that the two countries should renegotiate the terms of the deployment agreement.

On top of the provision of the land for the missile defense unit, South Korea has already sustained huge damage from economic retaliation by China.

Company officials and analysts say that the value of losses Korea has suffered from retaliatory steps has to have topped $1 billion. They expect the amount to snowball to as high as $20 billion if friction over THAAD is not addressed.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link.

H.R. McMaster Clarifies President Trump’s Statement About THAAD Cost Sharing

As I figured the statement made by President Trump in regards to South Korea paying for THAAD is related to upcoming US-ROK cost sharing negotiations:

H.R. McMaster

National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster said Sunday that the U.S. will indeed pay for the roughly $1 billion THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, amid neighboring North Korea’s repeated ballistic test launches.

“What I told our South Korean counterpart is until any renegotiation, that the deals in place, we’ll adhere to our word,” McMaster told “Fox News Sunday.”

He spoke days after President Trump said South Korea should pay for the anti-missile system and hours after Seoul said that McMaster had assured its chief national security officer, Kim Kwan-jin, about the deal.

“The last thing I would ever do is contradict the president of the United States,” McMaster also told Fox News. “And that’s not what it was. What the president has asked us to do, is to look across all of our alliances and to have appropriate burden sharing-responsibility sharing. We’re looking at that with our great ally South Korea, we’re looking at that with NATO.”  [Fox News]

You can read more at the link.

South Korean Politicians and Public Respond Very Negatively to Paying for THAAD Deployment

The comment by President Trump that he wants South Korea to pay for the THAAD deployment is not going over very well in South Korea as one would expect.  Here is how many citizens feel about paying for a system intended to protect them:

The top five presidential candidates on Friday sit in the last televised debate hosted by the National Election Broadcasting Debate Commission. (From left) Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea, Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party, Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party, Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party and Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party. Yonhap

“We’re already upset about THAAD being deployed in our town, and now they want us to pay for it, too? South Korea can’t pay, so just send it back to the US,” said Lim Soon-boon, 61, on Apr. 28. “At first, the US said it would be paying for the deployment, so it’s ridiculous for them to start asking us to pay for it now.” Lim is head of the women’s association in Soseong Village, Chojeon Township, Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, where the THAAD missile defense system is being deployed. “I’m grateful to Trump for bringing us to the realization that the US’s ultimate goal was to sell THAAD to South Korea,” said Bae Mi-yeong, 39, a Seongju resident.

On the day that US President Donald Trump asked South Korea to pay US$1 billion to deploy THAAD and South Korea’s Defense Ministry rejected the request, a group chatroom on KakaoTalk that is used by more than 800 residents of Seongju was filled with comments about “bastards selling out the country” and “morons in the Defense Ministry.”

“It seems as if not a single thing has gone right with the THAAD deployment. It doesn’t make sense for the Defense Ministry to deny that when the US president is openly asking for US$1 billion,” said Kim Chung-hwan, 57, co-chair of the Seongju Committee Fighting for the Cancellation of the THAAD Deployment. “Is South Korea a colony that has to cough up cash whenever the US wants it to?” asked Park Hee-ju, 48, who is a member of the Gimcheon city council as well as co-chair of the Gimcheon Civic Action Committee Against the THAAD Deployment.  [Hankyoreh]

Here is what the Presidential candidates had to say about paying for THAAD with most of them as expected taking the populist we are not paying for THAAD stance:

Presidential candidates on Friday argued over Washington’s pressure on Seoul to pay for a US missile defense system to be stationed on the peninsula.

The top five candidates sat in a televised debated hosted by the National Election Broadcasting Debate Commission, the last debate to be held prior to the election on May 9.

The session started off with liberal candidates raising objections to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and its deployment process.

“We have to tell (the US) to take THAAD back as we will not pay for it, for the sake of our nation’s dignity,” said Sim Sang-jeung of the progressive minority Justice Party.  (…….)  Front-runner Moon Jae-in of the main liberal Democratic Party of Korea, partly agreed with Sim’s argument.

“We have lost bargaining power over the issue because several parties and candidates unconditionally consented (to THAAD),” Moon said.

But he took a more moderate stance, claiming that the detailed discussions should be handed over to the incoming government.

“More diplomatic discussion and public consultation is required,” he said.

“Also, the billion-dollar amount is a huge financial burden upon the South Korean government, so a parliamentary ratification is necessary (to decide on the payment).”  Korea Herald]

There was at least one candidate that actually analyzed Trump’s remarks instead of taking a populist stance:

“I believe that President Trump has other purposes in mentioning (the THAAD expenses),” said Yoo.

“It has already been agreed that (Seoul) would not pay (for the deployment), so when I become president, I will talk (with the US) so that we won’t have to pay.”  [Korea Herald]

Mr. Yoo is likely right that President Trump has other purposes with the THAAD comment which I think may have been intended to set conditions for USFK cost sharing negotiations.  Korea will likely not end up paying for the THAAD deployment, but I would be surprised if they don’t end up paying more for USFK cost sharing once the current agreement ends next year.

Trump Wants ROK Government to Pay Cost for Deployment of THAAD to Korea

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.

US Military Installs THAAD Missile Defense System in South Korea Despite Protests

By all appearances it seems the US and ROK governments pushed ahead with the installation of the THAAD missile defense system before the upcoming ROK presidential election though USFK is not commenting on this:

U.S. military vehicle moves past banners opposing a plan to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, as South Korean police officers stand guard in Seongju, South Korea, Wednesday, April 26, 2017. South Korea says key parts of a contentious U.S. missile defense system have been installed a day after rival North Korea showed off its military power. (Kim Jun-bum / AP)

The United States military started installing a controversial anti-missile defense system in South Korea overnight Tuesday, triggering protests and sparking criticism that it was rushing to get the battery in place before the likely election of a president who opposes it.

The sudden and unannounced move came only six days after U.S. Forces Korea secured the land to deploy the system, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

Moon Jae-in, a liberal candidate who has a strong lead in the polls ahead of the May 9 presidential election, has promised to review South Korea’s decision to host the anti-missile battery.

“There’s a sense in Seoul that THAAD deployment has been rushed based on the timetable of South Korea’s presidential election, rather than North Korea’s threats,” said John Delury, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul.

“To some extent, the acceleration of THAAD deployment has ‘worked,’ limiting the next South Korean leader’s room for maneuver,” Delury said. “But there’s the danger of a backlash among the South Korean public feeling like a pawn in the game of ‘America First.’ ”

U.S. Forces Korea did not make any statement about the deployment and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why the installation was started in the dead of night.  [Chicago Tribune]

You can read more at the link, but the real surprise is that people are surprised by this.  USFK and the ROK government have been publicly signaling for months that the deployment will be accelerated.

Moon Jae-in is saying that the deployment decision should have been left up to the next government after reaching a national consensus.

“Moon Jae-in has been consistent in his position on the THAAD deployment: that must be decided by the next administration after enough public discussion and by national consensus,” Park Kwang-on said in a statement.

“Any deployment that completely ignores appropriate processes must be suspended now and the final decision should be made after consultation between South Korea and the U.S.” he said.

Anyway the US military did Mr. Moon a great favor because now when he likely becomes President he does not have to worry about this decision and can just blame the last government for allowing it to happen to appease his leftist base while getting the increased defense benefit against North Korea provided by THAAD.

Here is what was happening at the site as the equipment was rolling in:

In Seongju county, at the location of the THAAD site, around 4,000 police were present to ensure the equipment’s delivery. Around 400 protesters were present at a demonstration near the site, and police in riot gear held back protesters as the equipment rolled past on military trucks. Hwang Soo-young, an activist with the government watchdog group, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), was at the site of the protest Wednesday morning. She claimed that the protests turned violent as “police were pushing residents away.”
She claimed six people were injured during the encounter, although CNN has not been able to independently verify the claim.  She said that vehicles with equipment “including radar, launchers and generators” started passing the village of Soseongri at around 4.45 a.m. (3.45 p.m. Tuesday ET).  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but apparently the residents are upset that they did not know about the deployment of the vehicles to the site.  Did they really think the US military would tell them when the equipment would drive to the site so they militant leftist groups that don’t live in Seongju could mobilize and block the road?
It will be interesting to see if the THAAD site in Seongju becomes a big cause for the Korean left to continue to protest or not over the coming months.

Moon Jae-in Vows Early Transfer of OPCON from US Military

How long has the ROK been saying this?  However, this time with a President Trump in office I wonder if he will call their bluff or not on this issue?:

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s leading presidential candidate, on Sunday announced a set of policies on North Korea and national security, including an early recovery from the United States of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean forces.

At a press conference in the National Assembly, Moon, candidate for the Democratic Party, said he and his government “will take back the wartime OPCON early” and enhance deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

“We will take charge of our defense ourselves by all intents and purposes,” Moon said.

The OPCON transfer, which was previously set for 2015, was deferred amid Pyongyang’s provocations. Seoul and Washington have agreed on the “conditions-based” transfer, which observers say could come sometime in the 2020  [Yonhap]

White House Says It Knows Korea Was An Independent Country for Thousands of Years

Like I have been saying since the beginning of this story, the real issue is not what Trump said, but that the Chinese President thinks Korea was once part of China:

The White House said Friday it is well aware that Korea has been “independent for thousands of years,” after President Donald Trump quoted Chinese President Xi Jinping as claiming, falsely, that Korea used to be part of China.

“We generally do not comment on the details of what is said between the President and other leaders. We know well that Korea has been independent for thousands of years,” Michael Anton, deputy assistant to the president for strategic communications, told Yonhap News Agency.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.