S Korea an­nounces US troops’ pay­ment hike

Millennium Post - - Mp World -

SEOUL: Seoul said Sun­day it agreed to hike its pay­ment for main­tain­ing Amer­i­can troops on its soil, set­tling a dis­pute with its long­time ally ahead of a sec­ond sum­mit be­tween the US and North Korea.

The two coun­tries have been in a se­cu­rity al­liance since the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty — with more than 28,000 US troops sta­tioned in the South to guard against threats from Py­ongyang.

But US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has re­peat­edly com­plained about the ex­pense of keep­ing Amer­i­can forces on the penin­sula, with Washington re­port­edly ask­ing Seoul to dou­ble its con­tri­bu­tion to­ward costs.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions ended with South Korea’s for­eign min­istry say­ing Seoul will pay about 1.04 tril­lion won (USD 924 mil­lion) in 2019, 8.2 per cent more than what it of­fered un­der a pre­vi­ous five-year pact which ex­pired at the end of last year.

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

“The two coun­tries reaf­firmed... the im­por­tance of a strong South Korea-us alli- ance and the need for a sta­ble sta­tion­ing of the US troops,” it said in a state­ment is­sued af­ter a sign­ing cer­e­mony.

The row had raised con­cern that Trump may use it as an ex­cuse for US with­drawal.

The US pres­i­dent and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are ex­pected to dis­cuss an of­fi­cial dec­la­ra­tion to end the decades­old war — a pre­lude to a peace treaty — at their sec­ond sum­mit in Hanoi later this month.

At their first meet­ing in Sin­ga­pore last year, the no­to­ri­ously un­pre­dictable US pres­i­dent had made a shock de­ci­sion to sus­pend Us-south Korea mil­i­tary drills.

But Trump told US broad­caster CBS last week that he had “no plans” to re­move US troops from South Korea as part of a deal at the up­com­ing sum­mit, although he ad­mit­ted “maybe some­day” he would with­draw them, adding: “It’s very ex­pen­sive to keep troops there.” Since the deal is only valid for one year, the two sides may soon have to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Seoul con­trib­uted around 960 bil­lion won last year — more than 40 per cent of the to­tal bill — fi­nanc­ing the con­struc­tion of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary fa­cil­i­ties and pay­ing South Korean civil­ians work­ing on US bases.

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