Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

South Korea, US ink provisional defense cost-sharing pact

South Korea, US ink provisional defense cost-sharing pact

U.S. Forces Korea, the main command, said in its Strategic Digest that Seoul paid about 41 percent of the cost.

"It has been a very long process, but ultimately a very successful process", South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a meeting before another official from the foreign ministry initialled the agreement.

But on Sunday, South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement that the United States had affirmed it would not be changing the scale of its troop presence. The big US 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. But a foreign ministry official in Seoul said the deal could be extended if the two sides agree.

He added that Washington "realizes that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", as quoted by Reuters.

The administration had demanded the South Koreans pay $1.2 billion, but Seoul balked at that amount. "We are very pleased our consultations resulted in agreement that will strengthen transparency and deepen our cooperation and the alliance". Ten rounds of negotiations were required over the span of a year to hammer out the new deal.

"If the cost of increasing the defense spending to match whatever firepower the U.S. forces were able to provide on the Korean Peninsula is larger than the increase [in cost-sharing], it makes no mathematical sense for South Korea to not contribute more to the cost-sharing agreement", Kim said.

About 28,500 United States troops are stationed in South Korea, where the United States has maintained a military presence since the 1950-53 Korean War. 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 US soldiers deployed there.

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Timothy Betts (L), acting deputy assistant secretary and senior advisor for security negotiations and agreements in the U.S. Department of State and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha before their meeting at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, on February 10, 2019.

The new payment agreement comes weeks before Trump is set to meet for a second time with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Last month, a senior South Korean ruling party legislator said negotiations were deadlocked after the United States made a "sudden, unacceptable" demand that Seoul pay more than 1.4 trillion won ($1.2bn) per year.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke regularly with Trump before and after his first summit with Kim last June.

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

In order to ensure that the Alliance remains ready to "Fight Tonight", defend the Korean Peninsula, and (if necessary) defeat North Korea, South Korea and the United States prioritize the development and deployment of a wide array of military assets.

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 USA troops stationed in the South to guard against threats from Pyongyang.

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