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South Korea-US defense cost-sharing meeting ends inconclusively

Dec. 18, 2019 - 18:07 By Park Han-na
South Korea and the US failed to conclude their talks on determining how much Seoul will pay for the upkeep of the 28,500 US Forces Korea next year during their meetings in Seoul.

“The two sides are expanding their mutual understanding through discussions despite the differences in their positions on various issues, and decided to continue close consultations to draw up a mutually acceptable agreement,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release. 

Korea’s chief negotiator Jeong Eun-bo (right) and his US counterpart James DeHart (Yonhap)

The ministry did not elaborate on details of their broadened understanding.

On Wednesday, Jeong Eun-bo, Korea’s chief negotiator, and his US counterpart, James DeHart, wrapped up their two-day talks on renewing the Special Measures Agreement, the defense cost-sharing deal.

Their talks will continue next year although they hoped to reach a deal before the current defense agreement expires on Dec. 31.

The US has reportedly pushed for Korea to pay around $5 billion next year -- about five times the $924 million Seoul agreed to shoulder this year -- by adding a new clause in the SMA that aims to get Seoul to cover expenses related to the allies’ combined military exercises and support for USFK troops’ families.

Korea has insisted that the negotiations stick to the SMA’s current framework, which includes cost categories comprising personnel, military construction and logistical support.

“Through this meeting, we emphasized that the negotiation should be made within the SMA framework and that a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable agreement should be drawn in the direction of strengthening the South Korea-US alliance and unified defense posture,” the ministry said.

The next round of defense cost-sharing talks will be held in Washington in January.

By Park Han-na (