The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

S. Korea, US to initiate early defense cost-sharing talks this week

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : April 22, 2024 - 18:04

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The South Korean (left) and US flags (123rf) The South Korean (left) and US flags (123rf)

South Korea and the United States are set to embark on the first round of negotiations for the next defense cost-sharing agreement from Tuesday to Thursday in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul announced Monday.

The negotiations will commence nearly 20 months before the current agreement expires in 2025. The upcoming US presidential election in November where President Joe Biden faces a rematch with former President Donald Trump appears to have pushed the two parties toward initiating the talks early, according to observers.

South Korea faced challenges in reaching a defense cost-sharing agreement during the Trump administration from 2017 to 2021. The 2020-25 deal concluded in March 2021, less than six weeks after Biden's inauguration.

"The government will proceed with consultations with the stance that our defense cost sharing should be carried out at a reasonable level for establishing conditions for the stable stationing of US Forces in Korea and strengthening the Korea-US combined defense posture," the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said.

The meeting comes less than two months after Seoul and Washington appointed veteran diplomats as their chief delegates in early March.

Lee Tae-woo, a seasoned diplomat with a career at the Foreign Ministry since 1996, serves as the chief negotiator and leads the South Korean delegation, which comprises officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, and the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

Leading the US delegation is Linda Specht, a senior advisor specializing in security agreements within the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Officials from the US State Department, the Defense Department and US Forces Korea will participate in the talks.

South Korea has financially contributed to the stationing of roughly 28,500 US Forces Korea personnel by shouldering costs for labor, logistics and construction through the framework of the Special Measures Agreement or SMA. The agreement requires periodic renewal based on mutual consent, however.