The Financial Times website reported on February 2 that the United States has put pressure on South Korea to bear more defense expenses. This has affected Britains hopes for a $800 million deal to sell helicopters to the South Korean navy.
The report quoted U.S. ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris as saying that the U.S. government is considering the issue of weapons procurement into the unpleasant negotiations between South Korea and the United States. The purpose of the negotiation is to increase the share of South Korea in the cost of 28500 US troops stationed in South Korea.
Obviously, we would like to see South Korea buy American weapons, Harris said last month
Leonardo, a well-known European arms company, was expected to win the contract to build a wildcat helicopter in jovier, southwest England, the report said. But it is now competing with U.S. rival Lockheed Martin to provide 12 anti submarine helicopters and related communications, weapon systems and support services to South Korea.
Leonardo is the current equipment supplier of the South Korean navy. The company said it can best meet the requirements of the South Korean navy, and said: the company always welcomes fair and transparent competition from all countries.
British media commented that the U.S. initially asked South Korea to significantly increase its investment in the U.S. military in South Korea, from $870 million a year to about $5 billion, but the South Korean government refused to accept this. When South Korean President Wen zaiyin met with us president trump at the UN in September last year, he said South Korea would increase its procurement of US weapons. Last month, Harris said the U.S. governments position had softened, although the two sides remained divided on the agreement.
Shen Renjing, head of the South Korean defense network, a Seoul think tank, said South Korea seems likely to face pressure to choose American made helicopters.
The purchase of U.S. weapons will definitely play an active role in defense cost sharing negotiations, and the mh-60r Seahawk helicopter may be selected, Shen said
U.S. allies in Asia and Europe are paying close attention to this issue, the report said, because trump often attacks allies for relying on U.S. defense, leading critics to accuse Washington of trying to cash in the alliance.
The defense acquisition program authority and the Ministry of defense, which are responsible for the bidding, declined to comment.
For the South Korean navy, Leonardos wildcat helicopter is cheaper than Lomas, the report quoted defense experts as saying. However, Loma said it believed its mh-60r helicopter was more suitable for the South Korean navy..
According to the Yonhap news agency on January 28, two influential U.S. senators sent a letter to Secretary of state Peng PEO and Defense Secretary esper, calling on the U.S. government to reconsider its request that South Korea must substantially increase the share of defense spending.
In their letters, senators Bob Menendez and Jack Reid stressed their concerns about the increased diplomatic and military risks on the peninsula if the US and South Korea fail to reach a defense sharing agreement.
In their letter, menendes and Reid said: the persistence of the (US) government in its idea of cost sharing hides a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of the US ROK alliance and the US strategic positioning in the Indian Pacific region. And this insistence is almost certain to fail.
The report said that the United States and South Korea are negotiating a new agreement on the cost of 28500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, which has been difficult for the two allies to bridge their differences on the proportion of defense cost sharing.
Earlier, he and esper published a joint review in the Wall Street Journal, saying South Korea is an ally, not a subsidiary, and should pay more for its own defense.
A corner of US military base in South Korea (US Army website)