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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S. hold 10th round of defense cost talks

All News 20:45 December 11, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States held another round of negotiations in Seoul on Tuesday over dividing the cost for the stationing of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), Seoul officials said.

The allies sought to nail down a deal from the 10th round of talks over the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), a cost-sharing contract set to expire at the end of this year. The talks will run through Thursday.

A sticking point is Washington's push for a sharp increase in Seoul's contribution. This year alone, South Korea has contributed 960 billion won (US$859 million) to maintain U.S. forces on the peninsula, a key deterrent against possible North Korean aggression.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing people familiar with the SMA talks, that U.S. President Donald Trump wants Seoul to pay as much as double its current amount, the equivalent of $1.6 billion per year for the next five years.

The grueling negotiations have been a source of tensions between the allies, as they strive to remain on the same page to facilitate ongoing diplomacy to denuclearize North Korea and establish a lasting peace regime on the peninsula.

Chang Won-sam, a career diplomat who served as ambassador to Sri Lanka, led South Korea's negotiating team and his counterpart was Timothy Betts, deputy assistant secretary of state for plans, programs and operations.

Previous SMA negotiations were held in Honolulu, Jeju, Washington, D.C., Seoul and Seattle earlier this year.

Later in the day, U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris made an implicit call for Seoul to contribute more to the upkeep of U.S. troops.

"The ROK-U.S. alliance benefits greatly from Korea's contributions, including its advanced technologies; capable, professional military organization; and highly developed economic infrastructure," he said during an alliance event in Seoul.

"The U.S. appreciates the considerable resources the ROK provides to support this alliance, but more can and should be done in my opinion," he added.

ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows the national flags of South Korea and the United States. (Yonhap)


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