Defense chief voices hope for 'win-win' S. Korea-U.S. defense cost-sharing deal
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo has called for a "reasonable and fair" deal in defense cost negotiations with the United States, pointing out that South Korea has already been contributing much to the alliance through base construction for American forces and U.S. weapons purchases.
Jeong made the case in an article contributed Monday to the U.S.-based magazine Defense News as Washington has reportedly demanded a fivefold increase in Seoul's share of the costs of the upkeep of about 28,500 American troops stationed in the country.
"The defense burden-sharing negotiations are being held so that it may be concluded with mutual trust, and yield reasonable as well as fair results that would be a win-win to both nations," Jeong said in the article, titled "South Korea's defense minister on a mutually reinforceable, future-oriented 'Great ROK-US Alliance.'"
The two countries were scheduled to hold a new round of defense cost talks in Washington this week after last month's negotiations were cut short as U.S. negotiators walked out in an unusual public display of displeasure with the talks.
Calling the South Korea-U.S. alliance "forged in blood" "the most successful" in the world, the minister underscored Seoul's contribution to the U.S. interests "in the spirit of mutual benefits" based upon its strong economic and defense capabilities.
"By constructing Camp Humphreys, one of the best of its kind base in the world, the ROK contributed to stable stationing conditions for the United States Forces Korea, or USFK. Through defense cost-sharing, combined exercises and training, overseas deployment, and the purchase of cutting-edge weapons systems, the ROK is further strengthening the ROK-U.S. alliance and the combined defense capabilities," the minister noted.
Camp Humphreys, spanning 240,000 square meters, is a sprawling U.S. base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, which opened last year.
According to the Joint Communique of the 51st Security Consultative Meeting between the allies, Jeong and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper "shared the understanding that future SMA contributions must be set at a fair and mutually agreeable level."
Citing "some voices casting concerns about the combined defense posture and the alliance," Jeong said the strength of the alliance between Seoul and Washington has never been stronger, and the two sides will continue to develop the relations "in a harmonious manner with a spirit of mutual respect."
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