Foreign Policy North Korea

Trump is Extorting South Korea

Written by SK Ashby

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has asked Trump to withdraw American forces from South Korea, but Trump can't directly give that to him, right? I suppose he could, but it would look terribly bad.

What Trump might be able to do with at least some Republican support is make South Korea an offer they can't refuse.

Trump is demanding that South Korea dramatically increase the amount they already spend to help cover the cost of America's presence, a price so high it will almost certainly be rejected.

Trump is demanding that South Korea pay roughly 400% more in 2020 to cover the cost of keeping US troops on the peninsula, a congressional aide and an administration official confirmed to CNN.

The price hike has frustrated Pentagon officials and deeply concerned Republican and Democratic lawmakers, according to military officials and congressional aides. It has angered and unnerved Seoul, where leaders are questioning US commitment to their alliance and wondering whether Trump will pull US forces if they don't pay up. [...]

Scott Snyder, director of the US-Korea policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the extreme nature of the price hike is creating "worry that Trump is doing this as a pretext for withdrawal" of US troops.

Trump can't withdraw troops to appease Kim Jong-un, but he can invent some other reason to withdraw them, can't he?

South Korea already agreed to cover 8 percent more of the cost than they already did in the last year, but that's obviously a far cry from the 400 percent figure that Trump pulled out of his ass.

A cost-sharing agreement between the U.S. and South Korea has been in place since 1991, but previous administrations have never made demands as untenable as Trump. And it's not because they were soft, or whatever -- it's because they did not demand protection money as if they United States military were mercenary force.

In related news, Bloomberg reports that Kim Jong-un has found enough loopholes to avoid the Trump's sanctions and fund his nuclear weapons program.

North Korea is poking holes through a global web of sanctions and generating enough cash to keep its nuclear weapons program moving along as a year-end deadline Kim Jong Un set to reach a deal with the U.S. approaches -- with little progress in sight. [...]

“The problem is there is wiggle room, and while the sanctions are effective at squeezing the economy over the long run, I don’t believe Chairman Kim Jong Un sees them as a challenge in the short term,” Hugh Griffiths, who led the UN’s panel of experts on North Korea until earlier this year, said in an interview.

Griffiths said the volume of North Korean coal sales had fallen sharply as countries like China and Russia keep the country’s ships away from their ports. But Pyongyang has found loopholes, like delivering coal at sea in ship-to-ship transfers. That takes advantage of the lack of inter-agency cooperation in some East and South Asian countries who are less adept at coordinating among port authorities, safety inspectors and coast guards.

If the world is lucky, the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea will survive until Trump is out of office.