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Korea, US begin talks on sharing defense costs

South Korea and the United States opened another round of negotiations Wednesday on sharing the cost of American troops stationed on the Korean peninsula amid differences over how much Seoul should pay.

Senior diplomats of the allies started the two-day session at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul at around 10 a.m., officials said. It's the sixth round of talks this year aimed at deciding new terms related to South Korea's financial burden for the US Forces Korea.

It comes as Washington wants Seoul to pay far more for the 28,500-strong USFK and "operational support" from American forces outside Korea.


Operational support includes the deployment of so-called strategic assets, such as aircraft carriers, long-range bombers and nuclear submarines to counter North Korea's military threats.

It's a new category in the bilateral Special Measures Agreement that dates back to the early 1990s.

South Korea has divided the bill for the USFK into three sectors: payroll, construction and logistics.

Speaking at a National Assembly session on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said there's still a wide gap between the two sides over the issue.

She stressed the government is striving to reach a "reasonable" agreement in a "transparent" manner.

Seoul's share increased to around 960 billion won ($856 million) in 2018 under the latest five-year accord from 150 billion won in 1991, according to government data. The current SMA contract is to expire at the end of this year.

The allies started negotiations on a new agreement in Honolulu in March, followed by talks on Jeju Island, in Washington DC, Seoul and Seattle.

South Korea is represented by Chang Won-sam, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Sri Lanka, and his counterpart is Timothy Betts, deputy assistant secretary of state for plans, programs and operations. (Yonhap)