December 16, 2019 13:19
The chief U.S. negotiator for defense cost-sharing talks has returned for another round of epic negotiations about how much Korea will have to fork out to keep American troops here.
James DeHart arrived in Seoul on Sunday, two days ahead of the talks. He is expected to work out a negotiation strategy with U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris.
DeHart was whisked through Incheon International Airport without answering questions from reporters.
Washington is demanding an exorbitant fivefold increase in Korea's share of the cost to about US$5 billion, demanding a new category contribution for support activities outside the Korean Peninsula.
But Seoul insists that the talks can only cover areas specified in the Special Measures Agreement that governs the matter.
The talks are unlikely to conclude this year. The fear is that if talks get deadlocked, the U.S. will try to use other security issues as leverage.
On Dec. 3, U.S. President Donald Trump hinted at the possibility of withdrawing the U.S. Forces Korea because he is unsure of their usefulness.
"It can be debated," he said. "I can go either way. I can make arguments both ways. I think if we're going to [keep stationing troops in Korea], they should burden-share more fairly."
Announcing the return of some U.S. bases to Seoul last week, the Korean government already agreed to pay for the environmental cleanup of the often heavily contaminated sites.
Seoul has also said it is "considering" Washington's request to dispatch troops in support of the U.S. military adventures in the Straits of Hormuz.
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