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(2nd LD) S. Korea, U.S. end defense cost talks without deal

Defense 17:08 December 18, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with end of talks)
By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States ended their defense cost-sharing talks without a deal on Wednesday as they failed to narrow differences over how much Seoul should increase its payment.

Jeong Eun-bo, South Korea's chief negotiator, and his U.S. counterpart, James DeHart, met in Seoul to continue the two-day talks on renewing the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), the cost-sharing deal.

This week's negotiations were the last round of talks before the current SMA expires on Dec. 31. The two sides are expected to continue the negotiations in Washington next month.

"(The two sides) have broadened their understanding, but need to be ready for another round of talks in January next year," a diplomatic source said.

Chances seemed low that the two sides would strike a deal before the year's end, as they remain far apart over how much Seoul should pay for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

Washington has reportedly demanded a fivefold increase in Seoul's payments to nearly US$5 billion. Under this year's SMA, Seoul agreed to pay about $870 million.

The U.S. apparently wants to create a new clause in the SMA in order to get Seoul to cover expenses related to the allies' combined military exercises and support for USFK troops' families.

Seoul insists that the negotiations should proceed within the SMA framework, which requires it to pay partial costs for Korean employees in USFK installations, construction of some military facilities and logistical support.

Jeong Eun-bo (R), South Korea's chief negotiator, and his U.S. counterpart, James DeHart (L), are shown with their negotiating teams for the defense cost-sharing talks in Seoul on Dec. 17, 2019, in this photo provided by the South Korean foreign ministry. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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