World

S. Korea announces hike in payment for USA troops

S. Korea announces hike in payment for USA troops

The new spending agreement lasts for only one year, while previous agreements lasted for five years.

Last year, South Korea provided about 960 billion won, roughly 40 per cent of the cost of the deployment of 28,500 USA soldiers whose presence is meant to deter aggression from North Korea.

Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman of South Korea's presidential Blue House, said on Sunday that President Moon Jae-in would discuss the upcoming summit with Trump "soon" and that us and North Korean officials would be meeting in an unspecified Asian country next week.

Chang Won-sam, the top negotiator in defense cost-sharing negotiations and Timothy Betts, acting deputy assistant secretary and senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements of U.S. State Department signed the one-year contract at the foreign ministry in Seoul, Sunday which the South will pay 1.038 trillion won ($923 million) for stationing 28,500 USFK soldiers in South Korea.

But on Sunday, South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement that the United States had affirmed it would not be changing the scale of its troop presence.

A Patriot missile launcher enters Osan Air Base, South Korea, during Bravo Battery, 2-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion's field training exercise conducted November 27 to December 7, 2018.

About 70 percent of South Korea's payment funds the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean workers who provide administrative, technical, and other services for the USA military. The North and its main backer, China, also would like to see the USA military presence removed from their doorstep.

"We were able to close the gap on the total amount of the number (cost), and that I think is due to the goodwill and the trust that the two sides have built over the past years", Kang said. No violence was reported.

He added that Washington "realizes that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", as quoted by Reuters.

South Korean officials described the new deal as a compromise with President Trump's request for a "huge increase".

South Korea signs deal to pay more for US troops
After Trump’s Demand, South Korea Signs Deal to Pay More for US Troops

Brinkmanship is common in the cost-sharing talks, which have taken place since 1991, but the US -led effort to persuade North Korea to give up its weapons raised the stakes.

Some conservatives in South Korea voiced concerns over a weakening alliance with the United States at the same time as negotiations with North Korea to deprive it of its nuclear weapons hit a stalemate.

They said Trump might use the failed military cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to pull back some of U.S. troops in South Korea, as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump told CBS' "Face the Nation" last Sunday that he has no plans to withdraw troops from South Korea. During his election campaign, Trump suggested he could pull back troops from South Korea and Japan unless they took on greater a share of the financial burdens of supporting USA soldiers deployed there.

Seoul contributed around 960 billion won past year - more than 40 percent of the total bill - financing the construction of American military facilities and paying South Korean civilians working on USA bases.

The ministry said that although the U.S. had demanded a "huge increase" in payment, they were able to reach an agreement that reflects "the security situation of the Korean peninsula".

But both sides worked to hammer out a deal to minimise the impact of the lapse on South Korean workers on US military bases, and focus on nuclear talks ahead of a second US-North Korea summit, Seoul officials said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke regularly with Trump before and after his first summit with Kim last June. Betts also said the U.S.is pleased with the results, acknowledging Seoul's contribution to the alliance.

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, where the United States has maintained a military presence since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Most US troops were withdrawn in 1949 but they returned the next year to fight alongside South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean war.