Published: Mon, February 11, 2019

South Korea signs deal to pay more for USA troops

South Korea signs deal to pay more for USA troops

Prior to the spending increase, South Korea covered about 40 percent of the cost of constructing and maintaining US military facilities.

The new deal must still be approved by South Korea's parliament, but it would boost this year's contribution to about 1.04 trillion won (US$924 million), Seoul's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. In those, the USA had asked South Korea to pay the costs of operating strategic assets, but Seoul said those do not fall under the original scope of the allies cost-sharing agreements, which are meant mainly to pay for the salaries of South Koreans working at US military bases in the country and costs related to facility construction and logistics.

"The U.S. government realizes that Korea does a lot for the alliance and for peace and stability of this region", Betts said. On Sunday, Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the countries signed a new deal. "But it's an important part and we are pleased that our consultations resulted in an agreement that I think will strengthen transparency and strengthen and deepen our cooperation in the alliance".

The allies had struggled to reach a breakthrough despite 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump's repeated calls for a sharp increase in the ROK's contribution.

Trump told CBS' Face the Nation last Sunday that he had no plans to withdraw troops from South Korea.

The burden-sharing talks were a test for Trump's insistence that USA allies should pay more for their own defense. The North and its main backer, China, also would like to see the US military presence removed from their doorstep.

During his annual State of the Union Address on February 5, Trump announced that he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second time on February 27-28 in Vietnam.

About 70 percent of South Korea's contribution covers the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean employees who provide administrative, technical and other services for the USA military.

U.S. Forces Korea, the main command, said in its Strategic Digest that Seoul paid about 41 percent of the cost. During his election campaign, Trump suggested he could pull back troops from South Korea and Japan unless they took on greater a share of the financial burdens of supporting US soldiers deployed there.

Trump announced last week that he will sit down with Kim for a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in late February.

The sum rises from the 960 billion won the Koreans contributed last year, but is far short of the $1.5 billion President Donald Trump demanded earlier this year, which caused consternation among local politicians. The U.S. does not require approval from Congress. Park Ji-won, Arirang News. Their first summit in Singapore last June resulted in Kim's vague commitment to "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", a term that his propaganda machine previously used when it argued it would only denuclearize after the USA withdraws its troops from South Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to discuss the upcoming summit with Trump soon, according to a spokesman from the Blue House.

South Korea has hosted American troops since the two countries fought together against the communist-backed North in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Late a year ago, the USA military had warned Korean workers on its bases they might be put on leave from mid-April if no deal was agreed.

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