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South Korean protesters destroy portraits of US ambassador

South Korean protesters have destroyed portraits of the US ambassador to their country in front of the American Embassy in the capital, Seoul, to denounce Washington’s demands for increased South Korean payment for the American military presence in their country.

The protesters smashed up blocks of tofu and acorn jelly with paper portraits of US Ambassador Harry Harris on them as others cheered on in front of the US Embassy in Seoul on Friday.

Police presence was substantial. The protesters were surrounded by large back-to-back lines of officers.

“Harris out! We are not a US colony! We are not an ATM machine!” the protesters chanted.

Harris has become a focus of rage for the South Koreans frustrated with the Trump administration’s demand that Seoul pay as much as four billion dollars more a year to keep 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea.

South Korea currently pays about 900 million dollars for the presence of the US military in the country — currently the third-largest overseas host of US forces, after Japan and Germany.

Pentagon chief Esper says South Korea should pay more for US troops

Pentagon chief Esper says South Korea should pay more for US troopsUS Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pressed South Korea on Friday to pay more for the cost of stationing US troops in the country.

The current cost-sharing agreement, known as the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), will expire on December 31.

Following failed cost-sharing talks between the two countries last week, South Korean officials have said a new round of talks is planned in the capital next week.

Seoul police told Reuters that it had warned the protesters in the Friday rally to avoid bringing any hazardous materials or engage in behavior defamatory to the US. The police had planned to “restrict the protests if they cross the line,” Reuters reported.

The warning prompted the demonstrators to cancel an initial plan to behead an effigy of Harris.

Another protest against the US’s new cost-sharing demands has also been planned for Saturday.

Dozens of students climbed into the residence of the US ambassador in October to denounce the US military presence in the country. The US embassy asked for extra police protection following that incident.

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