South Korea signs deal to pay more for U.S. troops

10 Février, 2019, 13:35 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha right and Timothy Betts acting Deputy Assistant Secretary and Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the U.S. Department of State stand for the media before their meeting at Foreign Mini

Unlike previous multi-year deals, the term of the new agreement is one year.

Last year, South Korea provided about 960 billion won, roughly 40 per cent of the cost of the deployment of 28,500 U.S. soldiers whose presence is meant to deter aggression from North Korea.

Officials signed a short-term agreement on Sunday to boost South Korea's contribution toward the upkeep of U.S. troops on the peninsula, after a previous deal lapsed amid U.S. President Donald Trump's call for the South to pay more.

After last year's summit, Trump announced a halt to joint military exercises with South Korea, saying they were expensive and paid for mostly by the US.

U.S. Special Representative for the DPRK Stephen Biegun (L) shakes hands with the ROK's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in Seoul, ROK, February 9, 2019. The ministry said the USA assured South Korea that it is committed to the alliance and has no plans to adjust the number of its troops in South Korea.

South Korea began paying for the USA military deployment in the early 1990s, after rebuilding its war-devastated economy.

Citing officials at South Korea's presidential Blue House, Yonhap also reported that South Korean President Moon Jae-in would discuss the upcoming summit with Trump "soon", and that American and North Korean officials would be meeting in an unspecified Asian country ahead of the summit.

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"The United States government realizes that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", he said. "We are very pleased our consultations resulted in agreement that will strengthen transparency and deepen our cooperation and 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 South Korea's contribution. A five-year 2014 deal that covered South Korea's payment last year expired at the end of 2018.

Timothy Betts, US State Department senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements, met Kang before signing the agreement and told reporters the money represented a small but important part of South Korea's support for the alliance.

The new deal must still be approved by South Korea's parliament, but it would boost its contribution to 1.03 trillion won ($890 million) from 960 billion won in 2018. They said Trump might use the failed military cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to pull back some US troops in South Korea as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The disagreement had raised the prospect that Trump could decide to withdraw at least some troops from South Korea, as he has in other countries like Syria. Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the US had called for a sharp increase in South Korean spending but didn't elaborate.

The US military arrived in South Korea to disarm Japan, which colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910-45, following its second world war defeat.

Most US troops were withdrawn in 1949 but they returned the next year to fight alongside South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean war.

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