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S. Korea, U.S. to hold defense cost-sharing talks next week

South Korea and the United States are likely to start high-level negotiations sometime next week to renew the cost-sharing agreement for keeping U.S. troops here, a Seoul government source said Monday.

"Opening the first round of cost-sharing talks in Washington is under final discussion ... The date (for the talks) will soon be decided," said the source, requesting anonymity.

The talks come as the agreement, eighth of its kind and called the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), expires at the end of the year.

Under the SMA, last revised in 2008, Seoul provided Washington with 836 billion won (US$760 million) last year to support the stationing of 28,500 U.S. troops as a deterrence against possible North Korean provocations. The agreement was first signed in 1991.

The biggest issue at the upcoming talks is expected to be how much more of the burden South Korea will share. Washington reportedly called on Seoul to raise its share to at least 50 percent.                       

Hwang Joon-kook, former deputy chief of mission of the South Korean Embassy in Washington, and Amb. Eric G. John, foreign policy adviser to the Air Force chief of staff, will lead the negotiations, according to the source.

The U.S. military presence in the South is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War which ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas still technically at war.

(Yonhap News)