The United States and South Korea this week held fresh negotiations over how to split the cost of the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. The current deal expires at the end of the year, and U.S. President Donald Trump has reportedly demanded a fivefold increase in how much Seoul pays.
Trump says South Korea and other allies are taking advantage of the U.S. He reportedly wants Seoul to pay more than five times the amount it contributes now. Analyst Shin Beom-chul said some South Koreans would see such a demand as absurd, and that it could fuel anti-U.S. sentiment.
South Korea experienced mass anti-U.S. protests as recently as the late 2000s. However, these days, it's hard to find overt displays of anti-U.S. sentiment. Polls suggest both conservative and liberal South Koreans broadly support the U.S. alliance.
It's not guaranteed to stay that way, though. As Trump turns up the heat on cost-sharing, some familiar pockets of protest are getting louder.
Four hours south of Seoul, local villagers have set up a permanent roadblock to protest a controversial U.S. anti-missile system. As a result, the U.S. must deliver supplies to the base via helicopter.
Activist Kim Young Jae said he was also upset about the cost-sharing dispute. He said the U.S. was asking for more than what he saw as the total cost of the U.S. military presence, and he wondered how South Koreans could accept this.
Local resident Lee Jong-hee said that even if Trump wound up getting more money from South Korea, it would drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.
It's an outcome that Trump seems increasingly willing to risk.