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Washington Post criticizes Pompeo-Esper column on defense cost-sharing with S. Korea

The Washington Post has criticized last week's joint column by the US secretaries of state and defense about defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea as "conversations that typically happen behind closed doors."

In Sunday's article that rebuked US President Donald Trump's "strong-arm" foreign policy tactics, the US daily took issue with the rare commentary that Secretaries Mike Pompeo and Mark Esper published in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday to call for Seoul to pay more for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops on the peninsula.


In the commentary, entitled "South Korea is an ally, not a dependent," they stressed that as a global economic powerhouse and an equal partner for peace on the peninsula, South Korea "can and should" contribute more to its defense.

"The article caused unease in Seoul because of its implication that South Korea was acting more like a 'dependent' than an 'ally' -- conversations that typically happen behind closed doors rather than in a national newspaper," the WaPo article reads.

The newspaper also said veteran diplomats and analysts argue that Trump shows a "dangerous lack of understanding" about the US troop presence in allied countries, while noting the main point is to "protect American interests and project power."

Pompeo and Esper issued the commentary shortly after Seoul and Washington ended their latest round of negotiations on their defense cost-sharing deal, called the Special Measures Agreement.

Washington has been calling for Seoul to sharply increase its financial contributions to the stationing of the US Forces Korea by expanding the SMA coverage, while Seoul maintains the SMA framework should remain intact.

As examples of Trump's strong-arm tactics, The Washington Post mentioned the president's threat to pull out of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance amid his drive for the allies to spend more on their military budgets. As the most recent case, it noted Trump's warning of "very big sanctions" on Baghdad after the Iraqi parliament called for the pullout of US troops in the wake of an American airstrike that killed a top Iranian general.

Trump's "maximalist" approach to diplomacy has become a hallmark of his administration's foreign policy -- one that has scored him some short-term victories and has been derided as "extortion" by his detractors, the newspaper said. (Yonhap)