U.S. and South Korea sign deal on shared defense
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The statement also said Washington had withdrawn its earlier demand that South Korea provide “operational support,” helping to pay the costs of the U.S. soldiers, aircraft carriers and war planes used in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.