South Korea signs new deal to pay U.S. more for troop presence

Elias Hubbard
February 10, 2019

The new deal must still be approved by South Korea's parliament, but it would boost this year's contribution to about 1.04 trillion won (US$924 million), Seoul's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Negotiators held 10 rounds of talks previous year but remained deadlocked over President Donald Trump's demand that the South pay significantly more.

South Korea agreed to pay $920 million this year in a new defense cost-sharing deal with the United States that was signed Sunday, lifting a strain on the alliance just in time for the next U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed for South Korea to pay more.

On Feb. 10, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said that the United States had affirmed it would not be changing the scale of its troop presence. The ministry said the USA assured South Korea that it is committed to the alliance and has no plans to adjust the number of its troops in South Korea. On Sunday, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the countries signed a new deal.

Some conservatives in South Korea voiced concerns over a weakening alliance with the United States amid a stalemate in negotiations with North Korea to deprive it of its nuclear weapons.

South Korean officials have said they had sought to limit its burden to 1 trillion won ($889.7m) and make the accord valid for at least three years.

The South Korean ministry hasn't immediately revealed the exact amount of money Seoul would pay this year under the new deal.

Seoul contributes around 70 percent to cover the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean employees who provide administrative, technical and other services for the USA military.

South Korea has hosted American troops since the two countries fought together against the communist-backed North in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Trump announced last week that he will sit down with Kim for a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in late February.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to discuss the upcoming summit with Trump soon, according to a spokesman from the Blue House. "But it's an important part and we are pleased that our consultations resulted in an agreement that I think will strengthen transparency and strengthen and deepen our cooperation in the alliance".

Trump has complained that maintaining troops in South Korea is too expensive and said in the past that he would like to bring them home.

"Maybe someday", he said in a CBS News interview.

The allies also missed the December 31 deadline in 2013, but they managed to reach a deal a few weeks later when South Korea agreed to increase its contribution by 5.8 percent, with a 4-percent cap on the inflation rate. The big USA 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. After being briefed by Biegun about his Pyongyang trip, South Korea's presidential office said Sunday that USA and North Korean officials plan to meet again the week of February 17 in an unidentified Asian country. 70 percent of South Korea's support covers the salaries of 8.700 South Koreans who provide administrative and technical services for the 28,500 American troops stationed in their country. Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the US had called for a sharp increase in South Korean spending but didn't elaborate.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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