The specific circumstances are indeed different in South Korea and Germany but Trump’s been making similar demands in both places. That the countries should be paying more of their defence costs, alleviating some of the pressure on the US taxpayer. It’s a fair enough aim too and Germany at least has already agreed to it just not done very much about it. South Korea has now agreed and looks like they will in fact do it.
The point is that both countries are at least in part protected by the American military might. In S Korea directly, there are US troops there. Not so much as a fighting force but as a tripwire. If N Korea is stupid enough to invade then those American troops will be caught up in it ensuring that the US Government will them become involved in defending S Korea from the North.
Germany’s a little different, in that it’s not so much troops as the entire edifice of Nato. Someone starts nibbling at Germany’s borders and the US is signed up to come to their defence.
So, S Korea has agreed to pay more:
South Korean officials signed a short-term agreement on Sunday that would boost the amount Seoul contributes toward the upkeep of U.S. troops on the peninsula, after a previous deal lapsed amid U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for more money. The new deal must still be approved by South Korea’s parliament, but it would boost South Korea’s contribution to 1.03 trillion won ($890 million) from 960 billion won in 2018. Unlike past agreements, which lasted for five years, this deal is scheduled to expire in one year, potentially forcing both sides back to the bargaining table within months.
Sure, it’s not a huge difference but it is a political win for Trump at least. It’s also a point to be raising with the Germans and others. Hey, they’re paying more, you should be too.
Not that the US is demanding actual cash from Germany. Rather, there’s an agreement that each Nato member – it’s a mutual defence pact remember – should be spending at least 2% of GDP on their own defence. In order to stop people just free riding on the American guarantee. Germany’s nowhere near reaching this level of spending and Trump has been shouting that they should be. As they should be, they agreed to it.
Actually, the only non-US Nato member which is, so far as I know, the UK. That one ally is coughing up is pressure on the others to buck up.