Esper also wants to see Seoul re-sign an information-sharing pact with the U.S.’s other close ally in the region, Japan, that is about to expire.
“[South Korea] is a wealthy country and could and should pay more,” Esper said.
“It is crucial that we conclude the [defense pact] … with increased burden-sharing by the Republic of Korea before the end of the year,” he continued.
He reportedly spoke after a high-level defense policy meeting with his Seoul counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, on Friday.
The idea of South Korea paying more for U.S. troops doesn’t sit well with the South Korean public, with a recent survey showing that 96 percent of the country opposes higher costs for U.S. military protection, the news outlet reports.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry has announced that talks regarding the cost of U.S. troops will resume Nov. 18-19.
As for the information pact with Japan, Esper said he would work with both countries to try to prevent the pact from expiring.
However, the pact expires on Nov. 23 and there is no indication that a deal to extend it is imminent, according to Reuters.