Daniel R. DePetris
Forget all of Kim's missiles. Seoul is the real military power on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea's Military Has Gone Into Beast Mode
There is nothing in the world President Donald Trump despises more than nations who freeload off the United States.
Typically, that description is fired at Washington’s friends in Europe, most of whom spend a pittance on their own militaries. But the president often lumps the Republic of Korea in the same boat—yet one more rich country that boasts a massive trade deficit ($9.8 billion) with the United States, but nevertheless remains dependent on Washington for its national defense. Trump’s grievances with Seoul were the main reason negotiations over cost-sharing for the U.S. military presence in South Korea proved so contentious (in the end, the South Koreans agreed to pay an additional $77 million a year, a 9.8 percent increase from the previous rate).
The South Koreans, however, have actually been taking their defense obligations quite seriously over the last few years. U.S. military cost-sharing is a separate issue from what Seoul spends annually on its own military. And on this score, President Moon Jae-in’s administration is proving to be even more committed to South Korea’s defense as any of his conservative predecessors.