The national security chiefs of South Korea and the United States on Sunday reaffirmed their initial agreement that Seoul will only provide land for the U.S. deployment of a high-tech missile defense system here without further costs as demanded by President Donald Trump.
National Security Office chief Kim Kwan-jin and his American counterpart H.R. McMaster reconfirmed the stance during a phone conversation held earlier in the day at the request of the U.S. side, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said in a statement.
In an interview with Reuters last week, Trump said he wants South Korea to pay for the US$1 billion for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system which is now being fielded in South Korea to better defend the country against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
In another press interview with the Washington Times published on Saturday (Korean time), he again said, "Why should we pay for it? ... I respectfully say that I think it would be appropriate if they paid for it."
Trump's remarks run counter to the allies' much-published initial consent that the U.S. will finance the deployment and the operation of the THAAD system while the South Korea takes up the burden of providing the land for the missile battery.
Trump's remarks "were made in a general context with American people's hopes for (defense) cost sharing by allies in mind," McMaster was quoted as telling Kim during the 35-minute talks.
The U.S. official quoted Trump as saying that "the South Korea-U.S. alliance is a strong blood alliance and the U.S.' top priority in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. will be with South Korea 100 percent," according to the statement.
During the conversation, Kim and McMaster also pledged to step up pressure on North Korea in collaboration with China and the international community to deal with the reclusive country's evolving military threats, including the failed attempt to launch a ballistic missile on Saturday. (Yonhap)