S. Korea, U.S. to initial defense cost-sharing deal after ‘two plus two’ meeting: sources

March 15, 2021

South Korea and the United States plan to initial a recently concluded deal on the sharing of the cost for stationing U.S. troops here shortly after a “two plus two” meeting of their foreign and defense ministers in Seoul later this week, sources said Monday.

Ending 1 1/2 years of negotiations, the two sides reached the deal on March 7 to raise Seoul’s payment for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea by 13.9 percent to 1.183 trillion won (US$1.04 billion) this year from the previous year.

“We have been thinking about and consulting over this in a way that attaches the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance to the deal, and as a result, we have decided to initial it after the two plus two meeting,” a source said on condition of anonymity.

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and Defense Minister Suh Wook are set to hold the high-profile meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday.

Seoul’s top negotiator, Jeong Eun-bo, and a U.S. State Department official are expected to do the preliminary signing, the source said, as Jeong’s counterpart, Donna Welton, is unlikely to come here this week.

Before it takes effect, the cost-sharing deal, called the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), needs to go through a set of domestic procedures here, including presidential endorsement and parliamentary approval — a process expected to take two months or so.

Since 1991, Seoul has partially shouldered costs under the SMA for Korean USFK workers; the construction of military installations, such as barracks and training, educational, operational and communications facilities; and other logistical support.