The secretaries vastly underestimate Seoul’s financial contributions to the U.S.’s military presence in South Korea. South Korea has been paying over 50% of the personnel costs, or over $800 million per year, since 2015. It has also agreed to pay 92% of the $10.8 billion project to relocate U.S. forces to Pyeongtaek—the largest Defense Department construction project in the world. Messrs. Pompeo and Esper’s reasoning perpetuates the very thing they purport to discourage—a security-dependent South Korea. From a U.S. national-security standpoint, this does not make sense. While it is cheaper to station U.S. troops overseas because the host country covers so much of the cost, as in the case of South Korea, seeking military dominance everywhere ultimately makes the U.S. less safe.
This opinion was previously published in The Wall Street Journal