North Korea Angling for Another Trump-Kim Summit

Cheryl Sanders
November 16, 2019

US allies South Korea and Japan should settle their differences to maintain a military intelligence-sharing pact, Washington's Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged Friday, calling on Seoul to reverse its decision to end it.

Kim and Biegun met last month in the Swedish capital for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to re-open negotiations that have been stalled since a failed summit in Vietnam in February.

In a statement released by state media, North Korean negotiator Kim Myong Gil didn't clearly say whether the North would accept the supposed US offer.

Esper said on Wednesday he was open to changes in US military activity in South Korea if it helped diplomats trying to jump-start stalled talks with North Korea.

Speaking after a high-level defense policy meeting with his South Korean counterpart Jeong Kyeong-doo, Esper said the South is a "wealthy country and could and should pay more".

"It is crucial that we conclude the SMA with increased burden sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year", Esper said, referring to the official name of South Korea.

Neither government has openly discussed proposed figures.

Esper declined to detail what kinds of activity could be altered but did not rule out a further reduction in U.S. military exercises with South Korea, which U.S. President Donald Trump ordered scaled back past year. This year it was just less than a billion.

Esper also reaffirmed that South Korea and Japan should maintain their bilateral defense intelligence sharing deal, which Seoul decided not to extend amid historical and trade disputes.

"In case of South Korea, which has provided a fair amount of support in the past ... it is important to note that most of that money stays here in the country".

The North brands such U.S.

South Korean media, citing unnamed officials in the country, have said the Trump administration is seeking a whopping five-fold increase, to $4.7 billion dollars per year. While neither US nor South Korean officials have confirmed it, the headlines alone have been enough to whip up anger in South Korea. Last month university students broke into the US ambassador's residence to protest Washington's demand for more cash.

Esper's remarks on Monday weren't well received, either.

The report from Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency followed a slew of statements expressing anger at planned U.S.

A South Korean lawmaker said last week that US officials demanded up to $5 billion a year, more than five times what Seoul agreed to pay this year under a one-year deal.

"If the U.S. still seeks a sinister aim of appeasing us in a bid to pass the time limit - the end of this year - easily as it did during the DPRK-U.S. working-level negotiations in Sweden early in October, we have no willingness to have such negotiations", he said, using the abbreviation of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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