South Korea signs new deal to pay United States more for troop presence

Blanche Robertson
February 13, 2019

Yonhap news agency reported that South Korea will provide about 1.04 trillion won ($924 million) in 2019.

The provisional contract, known as the Special Measures Agreement, was inked almost six weeks after the previous five-year accord expired.

Last month, a senior South Korean ruling party legislator said negotiations were deadlocked after the U.S. made a "sudden, unacceptable" demand that Seoul pay more than 1.4 trillion won ($1.2bn) per year.

South Korea has agreed to pay the US nearly $100 million more than they did previous year to defray expenses associated with stationing 28,500 troops of US Forces Korea on the peninsula.

Yonhap said the U.S. had previously demanded 1.13 trillion won (US$1 billion) from South Korea. -South Korea alliance "without producing any tangible results on denuclearization".

So if a state visit does happen, then there could be a North Korea-Vietnam summit as well. before or after the one with the U.S. Washington's top negotiator, Betts, also met with South Korea's Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, before signing the agreement.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to discuss the upcoming summit with Trump soon, according to a spokesman from the Blue House. No further details of his schedule have been released by his North Korean hosts.

"The two countries reaffirmed. the importance of a strong South Korea-US alliance and the need for a stable stationing of the US troops", it said in a statement issued after a signing ceremony. "The SMA is only a small part of that".

The burden-sharing talks were a test for Trump's insistence that USA allies should pay more for their own defense.

The state-run Radio Pyongyang also reportedly broadcast similar demands that the US move towards "credible steps and responds with corresponding practical action". But he insists that troop numbers are not part of the equation in nuclear talks with the North.

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"It's very expensive", he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

However, he added "maybe someday", reiterating that he would like to save the money.

The comment by David Malpass, under secretary of the US Treasury for worldwide affairs, came after Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, asked the World Bank to play a leading role in providing assistance for development of North Korea in case there is meaningful progress on denuclearisation. 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 US withdraws its troops from South Korea.

The approximately 8 percent increase in payments by South Korea to the United States is likely to check one of the boxes on US President Donald Trump's "to do" list.

The murder of Jong Nam at the KL International Airport 2 (klia2) in 2017 sparked diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea. The North and its main backer, China, also would like to see the US military presence removed from their doorstep.

The Reuters report also notes that 70 percent of funds contributed by Seoul go toward salaries for approximately 8,700 South Korean workers who provide support services for the U.S. military.

The ministry said that although the USA had demanded a "huge increase" in payment, they were able to reach an agreement that reflects "the security situation of the Korean peninsula".

The U.S. military also enjoys less tangible benefits, including rent-free land for its bases and an exemption that allows government-operated vehicles to use expressways toll-free.

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

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

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