February 07, 2019 13:22
Seoul and Washington are expected to conclude a deal this week on the upkeep of U.S. troops in South Korea, which will cost Seoul a whopping W1-1.05 trillion and only be limited to a year before negotiations start again (US$1=W1,120).
Under the revised Special Measures Agreement, Seoul will pay about W1 trillion and provide material for the upkeep of the U.S. Forces Korea this year, up more than W50 billion from last year.
"The two sides agreed that there shouldn't be any crack in the alliance due to defense cost-sharing ahead of the second U.S.-North Korea summit," a diplomatic source here said. "They met halfway, with Washington showing flexibility on the amount of money and Seoul on the agreement period."
Washington had asked Seoul to increase its share by 50 percent to US$1.2 billion while shortening the term of the cost-sharing agreement from the current five years to one.
The U.S. State Department said Monday that the two countries reached agreement "in principle." But Seoul and Washington will have to restart talks in the first half of this year to discuss Seoul's share of the cost for the next year.
Prof. Park Won-gon of Handong Global University said, "A one-year agreement is a big burden since the Trump administration is only going to demand more money as time goes by."
"The concern among Trump administration officials, sources said, has been that [U.S. President Donald] Trump could put it on the table during one-on-one discussions with [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un], just as he emerged from his first summit with Kim and announced he was suspending U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises," CNN reported. "That decision caught [U.S. Defense Secretary James] Mattis by surprise. It also came without advance warning to Seoul," it added.
The negotiating teams of the two countries failed to reach an agreement last year even after 10 rounds of talks.
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