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Defense chief vows ‘win-win’ defense cost-sharing deal with U.S.

October 18, 2019

Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo pledged Friday to strive to clinch a “win-win” deal in defense cost-sharing talks with the United States.

Last month, the allies began negotiations on a fresh Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that will determine how much Seoul should pay for the stationing of the 28,500 American troops in the country. A new round of talks is expected to take place next week.

“I believe we need to view the defense cost matter within the wider framework of the Korea-U.S. alliance,” Jeong said during a parliamentary audit, pointing to the U.S. Forces Korea’s contribution to peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and America’s support for South Korea’s diplomacy.

When a ruling party lawmaker claimed that Washington has demanded US$5 billion and called on the government not to accept such an “excessive demand,” Jeong said the exact amount is yet to be fixed.

“We now have the negotiations with a comprehensive and forward-looking perspective,” Jeong said. “We will try to make a deal in a mutually beneficial, win-win way.”

Washington has demanded Seoul pay more for the U.S. troop presence, with President Donald Trump repeatedly stressing that the allies should pay their “fair share of (the) tremendous defense burden” the U.S. has borne in the past.

South Korea and the U.S. will hold talks on defense cost-sharing in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Wednesday and Thursday. The allies held their most recent negotiation on the matter in Seoul in September.

Under this year’s SMA, South Korea agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won (US$880.9 million), an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year. The current deal is set to expire on Dec. 31.

Since 1991, Seoul has shouldered partial costs under the SMA — for Korean civilians hired by the U.S. Forces Korea, the construction of military facilities to maintain the allies’ readiness and other forms of support.

Defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo speaks during a parliamentary audit of military courts in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

Defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo speaks during a parliamentary audit of military courts in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2019. (Yonhap)

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