U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper attends a joint press conference with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defense Ministry in Seoul Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. U.S. Defense Secretary Esper says South Korea is wealthy enough to pay a bigger share of the cost of having U.S. troops on its soil. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday pressed Washington’s case that longtime ally South Korea must pay a bigger share of the cost of having U.S. troops on its soil.

“This is a very strong alliance we have, but Korea is a wealthy country and could and should pay more to help offset the cost of defense,” Esper told a joint news conference with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo.

Esper said that while South Korea has provided “a fair amount of support in the past,” it is important to point out that “most of that money stays here in this country -- easily over 90% of that money stays here in Korea, it does not go to the United States.”

The amount Korea pays for the presence of about 28,000 U.S. troops has varied over the years. This year it is nearly $1 billion.

South Korean news reports have said the Trump administration is demanding a five-fold increase in South Korean contributions, to about $4.7 billion for 2020, although Jeong declined to confirm the figure. He said his country was prepared to pay a “fair and reasonable” amount.

In remarks to reporters Wednesday as he was flying to Seoul, Esper declined to cite a figure but said the administration has asked for a “substantial increase” in South Korea’s contributions.

At Friday’s news conference, Esper said American demands for a more favorable sharing of defense costs applies not only to South Korea but also to allies and partners across the globe. President Donald Trump has long accused American allies in Europe and Asia of being freeloaders and questioned why the U.S. is still helping to defend them.

Negotiations with Seoul over cost-sharing for 2020 is one of several major irritants in the alliance, which dates to the 1950-53 Korean War when the U.S. and other nations intervened after North Korea invaded the South.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, right, hold a joint press conference after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defense Ministry in Seoul Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. U.S. Defense Secretary Esper says South Korea is wealthy enough to pay a bigger share of the cost of having U.S. troops on its soil. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, hold a joint press conference after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defense Ministry in Seoul Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. U.S. Defense Secretary Esper says South Korea is wealthy enough to pay a bigger share of the cost of having U.S. troops on its soil. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, hold a joint press conference after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defense Ministry in Seoul Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. U.S. Defense Secretary Esper says South Korea is wealthy enough to pay a bigger share of the cost of having U.S. troops on its soil. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, hold a joint press conference after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at the Defense Ministry in Seoul Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. U.S. Defense Secretary Esper says South Korea is wealthy enough to pay a bigger share of the cost of having U.S. troops on its soil. (Jung Yeon-je/Pool Photo via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, shakes hands with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, before a meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Lee Jin-wook/Yonhap via AP)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, second from left, during a meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (Lee Jin-wook/Yonhap via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, right, talks with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo upon his arrival for the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo shake hands for the media prior to the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, Pool)
Protesters stage a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The sign reads
Protesters stage a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Protesters stage a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The sign reads
Protesters stage a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The sign reads
A protester holds a placard during a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The sign reads
Protesters with a board depicting an octopus symbolizing the United States grabs the Korean Peninsula during a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The sign reads
Protesters stage a rally to oppose a visit by U.S. Secretary for Defense Mark Esper in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. The sign reads
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center left, poses with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, center right, before their meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Seoul, South Korea.  (Kim Min-hee/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo before their meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Seoul, South Korea.  (Kim Min-hee/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo before their meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, in Seoul, South Korea.  (Kim Min-hee/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, third from left, and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, right, hold a meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, talks with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, during their meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, right, during their meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images via AP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, shakes hands with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, right, during their meeting Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images via AP)