S. Korea, U.S. to hold talks on sharing defense costs

August 21, 2018

SEOUL, Aug. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States will open another round of negotiations on Wednesday, seeking to narrow differences over covering the cost of American troops stationed on the peninsula, officials said.

Senior diplomats of the allies plan to hold the two-day session at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul. It would be the sixth round of talks on determining how much Seoul will pay for the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

It comes amid Washington’s call for Seoul to sharply increase its share of the cost of maintaining the 28,500-strong USFK and “operational support” from American forces outside the peninsula.

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.

It’s a new category in the bilateral Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that dates back to the early 1990s.

South Korea has divided the bill for the USFK in three sectors: payroll, construction and logistics.

Seoul’s share increased to around 960 billion won ($856 million) in 2018 under the latest five-year accord from 150 billion won in 1991, according to government data. The current SMA deal is to expire at the end of this year.

The two sides started negotiations on a new agreement in Honolulu in March, followed by talks on Jeju Island, in Washington D.C., Seoul and Seattle.

South Korea is represented by Chang Won-sam, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Sri Lanka, and his counterpart is Timothy Betts, deputy assistant secretary of state for plans, programs and operations.