U.S. and South Korea sign deal on shared de­fense

The Buffalo News - - WORLD NEWS -

SEOUL, South Korea – Washington and Seoul on Sun­day signed an agree­ment on how to share the cost of the U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in South Korea, re­solv­ing a dis­pute be­tween the al­lies be­fore Pres­i­dent Trump’s meet­ing this month with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader.

But the one-year deal only tem­po­rar­ily ad­dresses an is­sue that has be­come par­tic­u­larly con­tentious un­der Trump, who has in­sisted that South Korea and other al­lies shoul­der more of the cost of main­tain­ing U.S. bases on their soil.

Un­der the new deal, Seoul will con­trib­ute about 1.04 tril­lion won, or $925 mil­lion, this year to help cover the ex­pense of sta­tion­ing 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.

That is an 8.2 per­cent in­crease from last year, when South Korea paid 960 bil­lion won, roughly half the to­tal cost.

The agree­ment, sub­ject to par­lia­men­tary ap­proval, was signed in Seoul on Sun­day by the chief South Korean ne­go­tia­tor, Chang Won-sam, and his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, Ti­mothy Betts.

Dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions, “the United States re­con­firmed its com­mit­ment to de­fend­ing South Korea and made it clear that it was not con­sid­er­ing any change in the size of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence,” the South Korean For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment.

The state­ment also said Washington had with­drawn its ear­lier de­mand that South Korea pro­vide “op­er­a­tional sup­port,” help­ing to pay the costs of the U.S. sol­diers, air­craft car­ri­ers and war planes used in joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises with the South. Un­like the pre­vi­ous five-year deal, which ex­pired Dec. 31, the new agree­ment will cover this year only.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions to re­place the old agree­ment went past their De­cem­ber dead­line, as South Korea re­sisted Washington’s de­mand that it raise its con­tri­bu­tion by 50 per­cent.

The dead­lock had raised fears that Trump might pro­pose a with­drawal or re­duc­tion of U.S. troops in South Korea as a bar­gain­ing chip dur­ing his sec­ond sum­mit with Kim.

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