U.S. demands for huge payment increases from three of its major allies, South Korea, Japan and Germany, for basing military forces on their territory could cause significant shifts in the global U.S. military footprint. The centrality of the United States and its military to South Korea's and Japan's security strategies means Washington is in a strong position to extract more money. But the effort could push Germany further away from the United States.
Reports emerged this month that U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration have demanded that South Korea pay $4.7 billion next year — or 400 percent more than what it currently pays — for continued U.S. military protection. Then a report emerged that in July, the United States had requested that Japan increase its own share of military cost-sharing fourfold to $8 billion after their bilateral Special Measures Agreement expires in March 2021. These reports came as the United States was already preparing to press its NATO allies in Europe, in particular Germany, to pay more for the presence of U.S. troops on the Continent.
The latest U.S. demands were not the first indication that such a policy shift was in the works. In March, Bloomberg reported that under White House direction, the administration was drafting demands that Germany and Japan pay not only the full cost of U.S. forces deployed on Japanese soil, but also an additional 50 percent for the privilege of having them there. The same template was initially used in the Special Measures Agreement negotiations with South Korea in 2018 before the United States backed off. And in June, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon was analyzing the impact of the large-scale removal of U.S. troops from Germany, alarming European officials, who sought an explanation from their U.S. counterparts.