U.S. notes ‘progress’ in SMA negotiations, says is committed to early conclusion

February 12, 2021

The U.S. Department of State said on Friday that there has been progress in negotiations with South Korea over how to share the cost of stationing U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula.

A department spokesperson also said both countries are committed to quickly concluding their negotiations.

“While we decline to comment on or confirm the details on ongoing diplomatic discussions, I can tell you that talks continue, we are making progress, and both sides are committed to expeditiously concluding the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) and thereby strengthen the ROK-U.S. Alliance, the linchpin of peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia,” the official told Yonhap News Agency, asking not to be identified.

The remarks came one day after news reports suggested the countries may be nearing an agreement in their SMA talks.

The last SMA expired at the end of 2019, but the countries had been unable to narrow their gap over how big of a burden Seoul should shoulder for the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul had offered to increase its payment by up to 13 percent from the US$870 million it paid under the 2019 agreement.

The former Trump administration had initially asked South Korea to pay $5 billion a year before lowering its demand to a 50 percent rise to $1.3 billion a year.

In his inaugural speech, President Joe Biden vowed to repair U.S. alliances, while he has also said he would not “extort” U.S. allies by forcing them to pay more for their joint defense.