WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-NJ), today raised their growing concerns with the Trump Administration’s failure to reach a new burden-sharing deal with South Korea.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, the members urged the Administration to reconsider its current position in the negotiations for a new burden-sharing agreement known as the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), which funds U.S. military presence stationed in the Korean peninsula.  The Senators’ letter follows reports that the United States government recently rejected a significant offer by the Republic of Korea to increase their share of the financial burden of maintaining the current level of American military troops stationed in South Korea. 
“We are deeply concerned that if we are unable to reach a fair and mutually acceptable agreement on a new SMA soon, then the continued friction will erode the proper functioning of the alliance itself,” wrote the members, specifically citing North Korea’s continued progress in its nuclear program and recent advancements to its ballistic missile capabilities. “This could include readiness challenges and place the lives of United States service members, as well as our security interests, at increased risk. The only winners in that scenario are our adversaries. These are serious concerns that we expect you share.”
With the most recent SMA expiring over four months ago, thousands of South Korean civilians working for the U.S. military have already been furloughed due to the stand-off in negotiations for a new SMA for 2020. The government of South Korea previously announced its disposition to make greater contributions to its own defense and to the alliance to protect itself from North Korea. However, with the negotiations currently suspended until at least after the April 15th elections in the Republic of Korea, the ongoing stalemate in negotiations threatens to jeopardize the U.S.-ROK relationship and our nation’s presence in the Indo-Pacific.
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.