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S. Korea 'very encouraged' by signs from Biden administration: Kang

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (Yonhap)
WASHINGTON -- South Korea is "very encouraged" by signs coming from the incoming US administration regarding the South Korea-US alliance and cooperation, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Thursday.

Kang also said working with the incumbent US administration of President Donald Trump has been great but challenging.

"We are very encouraged by the signs coming from the new incoming administration, although we are not able to coordinate or collaborate because this is time of the transition, and we want to preserve and respect that space for the incoming administration,"

Kang said in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based Aspen Institute.

Kang's remarks come about six weeks before US President-elect Joe Biden is set to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

The top South Korean diplomat said cooperation with the US under Trump may have reached a record high, in terms of volume, but that it has been challenging.

"The Trump administration, I think, in terms of the sheer volume of collaboration has been extraordinarily vast and deep. The unconventionalness of the president and his inner circle may have been a challenge because of the unconventional uniqueness," she told the webinar.

"But I think we were still able to closely consult on alliance issues, such as the SMA," she added, referring to the Special Measures Agreement that partly sets South Korea's share of the cost in maintaining 28,500 US troops on the peninsula.

SMA negotiations have been and continue to be deadlocked due to a wide gap over how much of a burden Seoul should shoulder.

South Korea has offered to increase its burden-sharing by up to 13 percent from the $870 million it paid under last year's agreement, but the US is said to be demanding a 50 percent hike to $1.3 billion a year.

Biden, in an op-ed piece contributed exclusively to Yonhap News Agency, has said he will not seek to "extort" US allies.

Kang noted renewing the SMA will probably be "one of the first issues that we will have to work on with a new administration."

"But we have always been confident about the appreciation on the side of the US administration for the strategic importance of the alliance that they share with our country ... and we very much hope to have the very close dialogue on how to promote that further, strengthen that with the incoming administration," she said. (Yonhap)

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