South Korea-US defense cost-sharing talks fall through

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작성 2019.11.19 17:34 수정 2019.11.21 17:12

        South Korea-US defense cost-sharing talks fall through

Jeong Eun-bo, South Korea's chief negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with the US speaks during a regular press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, Tuesday


Differences between South Korea and the United States over how much Seoul should pay for the upkeep of the 28,500 US troops stationed here have come to the fore, with the two sides cutting short their meeting Tuesday.

The US negotiation team, led by James DeHart of the State Department, left the negotiating table earlier than planned on the second day of talks with the South Korean delegation in Seoul for the 11th Special Measures Agreement, the two sides’ defense cost-sharing accord, according to the Foreign Ministry. 

The meeting was scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but it was cut short before noon.

“The US side holds the position that the share of the defense cost could increase drastically by establishing a new article (in the cost-sharing deal), while our side maintains the increase should be within the range that is mutually acceptable within the framework of the SMA that the South and the US have agreed on over the last 28 years,” the ministry said in a press release.

The two-day negotiations came amid US President Donald Trump’s demand for a sharp increase in the defense spending of allies including South Korea and Japan.

“There was a considerable difference between proposals of the US and the South in principle,” said Jeong Eun-bo, South Korea’s top negotiator.

During a press conference after the meeting, DeHart said he had come to Seoul with an open mind to reach a mutually acceptable agreement but South Korea’s proposals fell short of expectations.

“Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing,” he said.

“As a result, we cut short our participation in the talks today in order to give the Korean side some time to reconsider, and I hope to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of our great alliance.”

With Tuesday’s setback, it is uncertain whether the two countries will be able to reach an agreement before the end of the year. The 10th SMA is set to expire Dec. 31.

The US has pushed for Korea to pay around $5 billion next year -- five times the $924 million that Seoul agreed to shoulder this year -- adding new categories, which reportedly include the costs of joint military exercises and rotational forces of the USFK.

“In any case, our side plans to do our best to ensure we will take a fair share at a reasonable level that contributes to strengthening the South Korea-US alliance and the combined defense posture,” the ministry said.

By  KICN  news ho jin-lee 

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