South Korea and the United States have kicked off discussions for what will likely be monthslong negotiations on cost-sharing for the upkeep of some 28,500 American troops stationed here, the foreign ministry said Thursday.
Their first meeting was held in Honolulu, Hawaii on Wednesday (local time). Officials of the allies discussed how to renew their current cost-sharing agreement, according to the ministry. They are expected to meet four or five times until Friday.
The talks were led by Chang Won-sam, a career diplomat who was appointed in mid-November to head the South Korean negotiation team, and Timothy Betts, deputy assistant secretary for plans, programs and operations at the US State Department.
|This photo provided by the foreign ministry shows South Korea`s chief negotiator, Chang Won-sam (R), shakes hands with his U.S. counterpart Timothy Betts in Honolulu, Hawaii on March 7. (Yonhap)|
South Korea has shared US Forces Korea upkeep costs since 1991 under the so-called Special Measures Agreement. The current accord signed in 2014 is set to expire at the end of this year.
Seoul's contribution has increased to around 960 billion won ($887.5 million) this year from some 150 billion won in 1991. The US has asked for Seoul to shoulder more.
The outcome of the cost-sharing negotiation is subject to parliamentary ratification.
"We have prepared our negotiation options in consideration of diverse scenarios that could be proposed by the US," foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk told reporters during a regular press briefing on Tuesday.
"The government will do its best to produce an agreement that will forge an environment for stable stationing of US troops here, that will contribute to strengthening joint defense capabilities and that our parliament and people can see as acceptable, reasonable and mutually beneficial," he added. (Yonhap)