U.S. Negotiator Says Defense Cost Demands Are 'Reasonable'

  • By Roh Suk-jo

    December 19, 2019 11:12

    The U.S. is demanding that Korea pay for costs for military operations that take place outside Korea but still help defend it, its top negotiator said Wednesday.

    U.S. Senior Adviser for Security Negotiations James DeHart told reporters in Seoul it is "reasonable" for Korea to shoulder some of the costs "because it is all about the defense of Korea."

    "I think it's a very appropriate discussion to have with [Korea] whether they are willing to share in the large cost of transporting American service personnel on and off the peninsula, and to be equipped to operate on the peninsula, and to be trained to operate on the peninsula," he said.

    The U.S. Forces Korea rotates one armored brigade every nine months with fresh forces from America, and they are the only soldiers who would be deployed in a ground war.

    But their transport is not covered by the Special Measures Agreement that governs the upkeep of 28,500 American troops here, and the feeling in Seoul is that the Americans are fishing for reasons to justify an exorbitant five-fold hike in Seoul's annual share to a reported US$5 billion.

    U.S. Senior Adviser for Security Negotiations James DeHart talks to reporters in Seoul on Wednesday. /Yonhap

    DeHart complained that there "have been some big figures that have been repeated many times in the Korean media, and those figures do not reflect where we are in our discussion."

    He did not say what the actual number is but added, "The figure will be different from our initial proposal… This is not a number that we are currently focused on in the negotiations."

    Regarding a recent Cheong Wa Dae announcement that it is considering deploying forces to the U.S.' military adventures in the Gulf, DeHart claimed the issue is unrelated to the cost-sharing talks.

    But he said, "We have adjusted and we have compromised as well because that is what happens in discussions between close allies and when both sides are trying to get to an agreement… I’m confident that we can have a successful result. So, we will keep working and continue the talks in January."

    In reality there are such big differences in positions that it is unlikely the two sides will find a compromise in the next round of negotiations in January either.

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