U.S., S. Korea to work closely to prepare for talks on next defense cost-sharing deal: State Dept.

January 17, 2024

The United States will work closely with South Korea to prepare for talks on the allies’ next defense-cost sharing deal, a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday, noting no decisions have been made on any specifics yet.

The remarks came after sources in Seoul said that the allies have reached an understanding to launch the negotiations on the 12th Special Measures Agreement (SMA) for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) earlier than usual.

The current six-year SMA is to expire at the end of next year. The apparent move for the early negotiation launch has spawned speculation that Seoul and Washington may want to sign a new SMA earlier on concerns that should former President Donald Trump be reelected, the negotiation could be a source of friction between the allies.

“We will work closely with the ROK to prepare for the negotiations of the 12th SMA,” the spokesperson said in response to a question from Yonhap News Agency, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

“We have not yet made any decisions on the specifics for negotiations,” the official added.

The spokesperson also said that a delegation from the State Department’s Office of Security Negotiations and Agreements visited South Korea from Dec. 11-17 to discuss the implementation of the 11th SMA.

In 2019, then President Trump demanded a hefty rise in South Korea’s share of the cost for stationing USFK. He reportedly called for a fivefold increase to US$5 billion, leading to tensions between Seoul and Washington.

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.