November 06, 2019 10:34
The top U.S. negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks made an unexpected visit to Seoul on Tuesday.
U.S. and Korean officials met in Hawaii last month for talks on splitting the cost of maintaining 28,500 American troops on the Korean Peninsula. Another round of talks will take place here, but a date has not been set yet.
James DeHart, the senior State Department adviser for security negotiations, is not the only U.S. official now in Seoul.
The same day brought David Stilwell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs. That suggests the U.S. is increasing pressure on Korea to pay more for the troop upkeep, extend an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan and join U.S. military operations in the Gulf and South China Sea.
Government officials here seemed surprised by DeHart's visit. One diplomatic source said he seems to have flown here in a rush "without thorough consultation with Korea."
A Foreign Ministry official told reporters, "We're trying to arrange a meeting with government officials. I think he wants to listen to various views in Seoul before meeting the year-end deadline for wrapping up the cost-sharing talks."
Stilwell, at least, meets Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Wednesday to discuss the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan and cooperation in U.S. military operations.
Stilwell told reporters in Tokyo last month that the pact is important for Korea, Japan and the U.S. "We do of course encourage the Korean side to return to this agreement because it benefits us, benefits [Japan] and it certainly benefits [Korea] as well," he said.
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