South Korea and the United States are expected to hold a new round of talks next week in their ongoing negotiations over the costs for U.S. troops stationed here, a source close to the matter said Monday.
According to the source, both countries are currently discussing details about schedules and location after they decided to hold the talks next week. The source added that Washington D.C. could be the venue for the meeting.
The talks are led by Chang Won-sam, a career diplomat who was appointed in mid-November to head the negotiation team, and Timothy Betts, deputy assistant secretary for plans, programs and operations at the U.S. State Department.
It will be the third round of negotiations. The two sides previously met in Honolulu, Hawaii, in March and in Seogwipo on Jeju Island last month.
The latest meeting comes after the New York Times reported that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to consider reducing American troops in South Korea. Although the U.S. government denied the report, some speculated that it could be a move to put more pressure on South Korea to shoulder more of the costs.
South Korea has shared the upkeep costs of U.S. Forces Korea since 1991. Its contribution has increased to around 960 billion won (US$891 million) this year from some 150 billion won in 1991.
The U.S. has asked for Seoul to pay more. In the last two rounds of negotiations, Washington demanded South Korea share the cost of deploying U.S. strategic assets around the Korean Peninsula. Seoul rejected the request, saying the issue should not be part of negotiations.
With some speculating that the U.S. will demand that Korea more than doubles its payment, the two sides will enter a tug-of-war to determine exact figures. It was reported that they've already exchanged documents explaining their ideas on cost sharing.
The current arrangement signed in 2014 is set to expire on Dec. 31.