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S. Korea aims to conclude defense cost talks with U.S. by October

Read: 558     15:44     27 August 2018    

South Korea wants to conclude thorny talks with the United States on sharing the cost of American forces here by the end of October in consideration of the time needed for domestic procedures, a government official said Monday.

It's expected to take two to three months to complete the process, including getting the National Assembly's approval, the official told reporters on background.

The allies had the sixth round of negotiations in Seoul last week, seeking to decide new terms related to South Korea's financial burden for the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

The existing accord, signed in 2014, is to expire this year.

The two sides made "some progress in technical issues" in their last talks, but they have yet to narrow differences over key points such as Washington's call for Seoul to pay partly for "operational support" for American troops outside Korea.

Operational support includes the deployment of so-called strategic assets, such as aircraft carriers, long-range bombers and nuclear submarines to counter North Korea's military threats.

Seoul maintains the position that it can spend its budget only in three sectors -- payroll, construction and logistics -- as it has done for decades.

U.S. negotiators are pressing South Korea to sharply raise its share from around 960 billion won (US$850 million) in 2018.

They cited President Donald Trump's keen interest in the matter at the bargaining table, according to the official.

He added that the terms of a new agreement are more important than meeting the deadline.

The allies plan to hold another round of talks in the U.S. next month for what will be the 10th bilateral Special Measures Agreement (SMA) dating back to the early 1990s.



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