South Korea, US sign cost-sharing deal for American troops

Sergio Conner
February 11, 2019

The deal will officially go into effect after it receives parliamentary approval in South Korea, which is expected to take place in April, according to Yonhap news agency. Prior to the spending increase, South Korea covered about 40 percent of the cost of constructing and maintaining USA military facilities.

South Korea and the United States struck a new deal Sunday on how much Seoul should pay for the USA military presence on its soil, official said, after previous rounds of failed negotiations caused worries about their decades-long alliance. The two nations inked a short-term deal on February 10 increasing South Korea's annual bill by 6.75 percent to $890 million.

In the agreement approved in Seoul, South Korea will pay $890 million for 28,000 US forces, up from $870 million, Yonhap News Agency reported.

"The United States government realises that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", said Betts.

But both sides worked to hammer out a deal to minimize the impact of the lapse on ROK workers on USA military bases, and focus on nuclear talks ahead of a second summit between Trump and leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un at the end of February, Seoul officials said. "We are very pleased our consultations resulted in agreement that will strengthen transparency and deepen our cooperation and the alliance".

The allies struggled to reach a breakthrough despite 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump's repeated calls for a sharp increase in South Korea's contribution. That's 8.two percent more than Seoul contributed last year, reflecting a rise in South Korea's defense budget this year.

70 percent of South Korea's support covers the salaries of 8.700 South Koreans who provide administrative and technical services for the 28,500 American troops stationed in their country.

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The big United States military presence in South Korea is a symbol of the countries' alliance, forged in blood during the war, but also a source of long-running anti-American sentiments.

President Trump stated last week that he has no short-term plans to withdraw US troops from South Korea but left the possibility open for the future. Yonhap said the US had previously demanded 1.13 trillion won ($1 billion) from South Korea. During his election campaign, Trump suggested he could pull back troops from South Korea and Japan unless they took on greater a share of the financial burdens of supporting USA soldiers deployed there.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) with President Donald Trump at the start of their historic summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Negotiators held 10 rounds of talks previous year but remained deadlocked over President Donald Trump's demand that the South pay significantly more. Situated at the epicenter of one of the world's most geopolitically volatile regions, the Korean Peninsula is of particular strategic importance to US policy and posture across East Asia.

Trump's top envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, visited Pyongyang last week to work out details of the upcoming summit.

The two countries have been in a security alliance since the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty - with more than 28,000 United States troops stationed in the South to guard against threats from Pyongyang.

Late past year, the US military had warned Korean workers on its bases they might be put on leave from mid-April if no deal was agreed.

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