U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will likely deliver his campaign pledge to press South Korea to bear a larger share of the costs in keeping American troops in the country, Victor Cha, a Korean-American academic well versed in Korean affairs, said Friday.
"Throughout the campaign, he has held to the view that allies need to pay their fair share, he espoused the view that the United States will treat allies fairly, but he also wants allies to treat the U.S. fairly," the chairman at the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a lecture at Seoul National University. He was a top advisor on North Korean affairs for former U.S. President George Bush.
The cost-sharing issue will be the first substantive issue challenging the U.S.-South Korea alliance under the Trump administration next year when the allies' five-year agreement will be up for renewal before its expiry in 2018, he said.
"It's about real money, so it's very difficult negotiations ... Trump feels allies should pay fair shares so I think the U.S will probably press Korea to pay more," he said.
Under the current the Special Measures Agreement, which is renewed every five years, South Korea foots more than 40 percent of the bill or around 1 trillion won ($859.8 million).
"My guess is that the U.S. wants Korea to pay more in a new co-sharing agreement," Cha said.
A Trump presidency would also dash South Korea's bid to join a U.S.-led multinational free trade pact Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), he said.
"He (Trump) said it's a bad deal, this reflects fundamental opposition to free trade agreements because it exports U.S. jobs and it causes U.S. companies to remove manufacturing bases overseas ... if it's (true) then I don't think it's about simply revising TPP," according to Cha.
"South Korea wants to be the first major economy to join the TPP after it goes into effect. I don't think it's an issue anymore because the TPP as we know it is not likely to continue in its current form under the Trump administration," he added.
Still, the plan to deploy the U.S. air defense system Terminal-High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) will remain unaffected in line with Trump's demand that "allies carry more burden," he noted.
In addition, the Trump administration is also expected to expedite Washington's transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean forces to Seoul, he said.
"If the U.S. wants Korea to carry more burden, the U.S. will seek the completion of OPCON transfer as a way of shifting the burden," according to Cha. (Yonhap)