The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Toward a Relationship of Equals

Jessica J. Lee
Content Type
Policy Brief
Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
President Trump contends that “very rich and wealthy countries” like the Republic of Korea should pay more for American troops stationed in their countries. While a more balanced burden-sharing arrangement is necessary, the U.S.’s demand for a five-fold increase in South Korea’s contribution, from $924 million to $5 billion, threatens to tear apart the bilateral relationship and undermines U.S. interests on the Korean Peninsula. The issue demanding attention is not who pays how much, but whether the existing terms of the U.S.–ROK security relationship remain pertinent or must be revised. The long-term goal of U.S. grand strategy should be to facilitate the creation of a peaceful global order consisting of fully sovereign, law-abiding states capable of providing for their own security. Any state that hosts foreign forces and relies on those forces for its defense is not fully sovereign: It is dependent upon others to ensure its security. This describes the Republic of Korea today.
Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Nuclear Weapons, Liberal Order, Alliance
Political Geography
United States, Asia, South Korea