S. Korea, U.S. have troop cost deal
Negotiators reach agreement in which Seoul will pay more
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea and the United States struck a new deal Sunday that increases Seoul’s contribution for the cost of the American military presence on its soil, overcoming previous failed negotiations that caused worries about their decadeslong alliance.
The development comes as President Donald Trump is set to hold his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in late February.
South Korea last year provided about $830 million, covering roughly 40 percent of the cost of the deployment of 28,500 U.S. soldiers whose presence is meant to deter aggression from North Korea. Trump has pushed for South Korea to pay more.
On Sunday, chief negotiators from the two countries signed a new cost-sharing plan, which requires South Korea to pay about $924 million in 2019, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The statement said the two countries reaffirmed the need for a “stable” U.S. military deployment amid the “rapidly changing situation on the Korean Peninsula.” The ministry said the U.S. assured South Korea that it is committed to the alliance and has no plans to adjust the number of its troops in South Korea.
South Korea began paying for the U.S. military deployment in the early 1990s, after rebuilding its economy from the devastation of the Korean War. The U.S. military presence is a symbol of the countries’ alliance, forged in blood during the war, but also a source of long-running anti-american sentiments.
About 20 anti-u.s. activists rallied near the Foreign Ministry building in Seoul on Sunday, chanting slogans like, “No more money for U.S. troops.” No violence was reported.
“The United States government realizes that Korea does a lot for our alliance and peace and stability in the region,” chief U.S. negotiator Timothy Betts said Sunday in Seoul. “We are very pleased our consultations resulted in agreement that will strengthen transparency and deepen our cooperation and the alliance.”
The deal, which involves the spending of South Korean taxpayer money, requires parliamentary approval in South Korea, but not congressional approval in the United States, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
The allies had failed to reach a new cost-sharing plan during some 10 rounds of talks. A five-year 2014 deal that covered South Korea’s payment last year expired at the end of 2018.
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.