SEOUL, May 2 (Korea Bizwire) – Trump is facing criticism in South Korea after a recent interview with Reuters in which he expressed a desire for the East Asian country to pay for the expenses of deploying a THAAD missile defense system, with some critics accusing the U.S. President of ignoring South Korea’s contribution, including damage to its economy, which has been heavily hit by Chinese economic retaliation.
As demonstrated by another interview with the Washington Times where the U.S. President asked why the U.S. should pay for the THAAD system, Trump has made a series of remarks recently criticizing the key American ally, creating an impression that South Korea is riding the coattails of American largesse, a point of view reflective of his presidential campaign narrative that America has been taken advantage of by the world.
Critics, however, are hitting back, citing evidence that proves South Korea is paying more than its fair share, including Chinese economic retaliation that South Korea has been subjected to alone, while the U.S. military proceeds with the deployment of the THAAD system with little to no impact on U.S.-China relations.
Assuming that the economic retaliation from China remains in place for the rest of the year, the damage on the South Korean economy this year is estimated to be a whopping 11 trillion won ($10 billion), according to the Korea Development Bank’s latest economic forecasts.
South Korean conglomerate Lotte, which has been heavily hit by Chinese economic retaliation, reported a 250 billion won drop in sales in March alone, with economists forecasting additional losses of 1 trillion from March to June.
This year, South Korea is spending nearly 950 billion won on U.S. defense costs, sharing more defense expenses with the U.S. given its GDP than any other American ally.
While some experts believe Trump’s remark was prompted by his lack of background and geopolitical knowledge, others say it’s a tactic calculated to give the Trump administration the upper hand at the negotiation table prior to next week’s presidential election in South Korea.
Following U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster’s comments last weekend that hinted at a possible THAAD renegotiation, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, Moon Sang-gyun, reaffirmed South Korea’s THAAD stance at a briefing held yesterday, saying, “The issue of who is going to cover the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system is a settled one as stipulated in the U.S.-Korea Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).”
With the South Korean presidential election less than a week away, South Korean government officials and the Trump administration continue to clash over the deployment of the THAAD system, putting current presidential frontrunner Moon Jae-in on a collision course with the U.S. government.
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)