South Korea and the United States have agreed to negotiate in a “rational” and “fair” way for a defense cost-sharing deal, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday, denying local news reports that Washington had suggested a specific amount for the renegotiation.
“(South Korea and the US) have not yet discussed the specific amount (for the cost-sharing deal). We agreed to negotiate in a rational and fair direction,” a presidential official told reporters.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks at a parliamentary committee session on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
The statement came after a local daily reported that Washington had requested Seoul pay $5 billion for next year’s cost-sharing agreement, more than a five-fold increase from the previous year.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa echoed Cheong Wa Dae’s statement when she was asked about the defense cost-sharing deal during a parliamentary committee session.
“When (US national security adviser) John Bolton visited Korea, we exchanged opinions (on defense cost-sharing) but we did not discuss the specific amount,” Kang said during the general meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee at the National Assembly on Tuesday.
“(The United States) expressed their stance, and it appears that the US has internally reviewed a new way to negotiate the cost-sharing deal. But it is a matter to be dealt with during the negotiation.”
The Special Measures Agreement was first signed in 1991 to ensure that Seoul bears about half of the total expenses in maintaining approximately 28,500 American troops stationed here.
Until last year, SMA contracts were effective for five years. When the last agreement expired, the US demanded the upcoming deal be valid for only one year.
In the latest agreement inked in February, South Korea agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won ($920 million), an increase of 8.2 percent from 960 billion won for the previous year.
The cost covers Korean civilians hired by the USFK, the construction of military facilities to maintain the allies’ readiness and other forms of support.
A new round of negotiations is expected to start again for the 11th SMA before the deal lapses at the end of this year.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)