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Mattis departure sending ripples in South Korea, analyst says

By Elizabeth Shim
Mattis departure sending ripples in South Korea, analyst says
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis' departure is raising concerns in Seoul, South Korea, according to a press report. Photo by EPA-EFE/Song Kyung-seok

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is sending ripples throughout South Korea's policy community amid a lack of bilateral consensus on military burden-sharing for U.S. forces on the peninsula, according to a press report.

Park Hwee-rhak, a political scientist at Kookmin University in Seoul, said Mattis' planned departure has "unnerved" the U.S.-South Korea alliance, Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.

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"I think Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria completely and swiftly has unnerved the U.S.-South Korean alliance ... It shows the United States won't play the role of the world's policeman despite a desire to do so from the president's advisers, including the defense secretary," Park said, according to the report.

Since Trump met with Kim Jong Un in June, Washington and Seoul have canceled several defense exercises -- most recently Vigilant Ace, an annual drill held in December.

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The president had called the joint exercises "provocative" and had asked South Korea to pay more for the presence of U.S. troops on the peninsula.

The most recent talks on the Special Measures Agreements ended without an accord, after Trump reportedly asked Seoul to double its contribution to more than $1 billion.

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The Trump administration has become amenable to proposals from Seoul on inter-Korea exchange, however.

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News 1 reported Friday South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong met with U.S. special envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun to discuss inter-Korea projects.

Biegun, who is in the South for talks, visited the border area of Panmunjom on Wednesday.

According to South Korea's presidential Blue House, Chung and Biegun discussed a "wide range of measures to promote cooperation with North Korea, including denuclearization and humanitarian assistance."

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Biegun and South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon agreed Seoul should go ahead with an inter-Korea railroad project, according to News 1.

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