Seoul Paying For THAAD Is The Wrong Move

| by Mark Jones

The new demands that President Donald Trump has made of South Korea are both unfair and unwise. He should therefore retract his statements as soon as possible.

In light of escalating tensions between North and South Korea, the latter country has been working with the United States in order to install a missile defense system -- called the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD -- that would help to block attacks from North Korea. According to GMA News Online, parts of the defense system have already been delivered to South Korea, and U.S. officials say that the system will be operational "within days."

On April 27, Trump said that he believed that South Korea should take on more financial responsibility regarding the defense system.

"I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid," Trump said, according to Reuters. "It's a billion-dollar system. It's phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky."

Trump's statement is problematic in several ways. First of all -- in light of previous agreements -- he has no right to demand that South Korea pay for the defense system.

According to GMA News, the United States and South Korea have had a security alliance since 1953. Seoul claims that under the Status of Forces Agreement (which regulates the United States' presence in the country), the United States agreed to pay for and operate this missile system. South Korea agreed to pay for the infrastructure and THAAD site; they have fulfilled these promises. 

"There is no change to this basic position," South Korea's defense ministry said in a statement, according to GMA. 

South Korea's statement shows that Trump is attempting to modify an already-standing agreement with the country. If Trump goes back on this deal, it will inevitably have a poor impact on the United States' relationship with South Korea, who has already upheld their end of the bargain. 

Demanding that South Korea pay for the defense system might also make other allies question the United States' trustworthiness when it comes to other official agreements that we have made. In short, Trump's statement has put not only the United States' relationship with South Korea at risk but also our relationships with our other allies. 

Paying for THAAD will also give the United States the right to maintain control of the system in the future. 

"We want to retain THAAD in our arsenal, consistent with all other U.S. weapons systems deployed on the Korean peninsula," said an anonymous former U.S. State Department official. "We own them. We retain them. We have the right to redeploy them."

If South Korea were to pay for the defense system, it would make it more difficult for the United States to maintain control over it. This loss of control might result in future problems for the United States within the region.

In addition, Trump's statement fails to consider the tough position that South Korea has found itself in with the creation of THAAD. For example, the defense system's creation had been received very poorly by China. According to GMA, China has banned tour groups from visiting South Korea in retaliation. 

South Korean businesses in China have also been affected. Lotte Group -- a South Korean retailer who provided the golf course where THAAD is being installed -- has had to close the majority of its stores in China as a result of boycotts.The Export-Import Bank of Korea says that the country stands to lose up to $14 billion as a result of such occurrences such over the next two years. 

These losses make it extremely clear that the presence of THAAD has already had a negative financial impact on South Korea. Even if the country had agreed to pay for the defense system -- which again, it has not -- the system's presence would make it increasingly difficult for them to do so. 

With all of this in mind, it is clear that Trump's demands of South Korea are completely unfair. South Korea, despite receiving some negative blowback, has already fulfilled their role in the creation of THAAD. Therefore, it is important that the United States do the same and pay for its creation.

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