Go to Contents Go to Navigation

U.S. official voices confidence about defense cost-sharing deal with S. Korea

All News 11:35 May 20, 2020

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- A senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday he is "very confident" the United States and South Korea will find a way forward in their stalled defense cost-sharing negotiations as both sides are working very hard to break the deadlock.

Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, made the remarks during a video-linked seminar on the alliance, amid concerns the delay in the conclusion of the talks could erode the allies' cooperation in other areas.

"For sure, we are working very hard to bring this to a conclusion. We'd preferred that we wrapped this up several months ago, but both sides are committed to making this happen," Knapper said in the forum hosted by the Korea Press Foundation and East-West Center.

"Both of our leaders are fully engaged on this. ... But it's a negotiation. But as allies, we are both compelled to find a way forward. And we will find a way forward. With that, I am very confident," he added.

Marc Knapper, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for Korea and Japan, appears on a screen during an online forum in Seoul on May 20, 2020. (Yonhap)

Seoul and Washington appear to still be at an impasse in the negotiations on Seoul's share of the cost for stationing the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) under the cost-sharing deal, called the Special Measures Agreement (SMA).

Both sides have drawn battle lines, casting their latest proposals as the final ones. Seoul officials indicated a 13 percent increase from last year's SMA as the "best offer" Korea could make, while the U.S. has asked South Korea to pay US$1.3 billion a year -- an increase of about 50 percent from the 2019 SMA.

Due to the absence of a deal to fund wages for thousands of South Korean USFK employees in nonessential positions, they were forced to go on unpaid leave last month, apparently hampering the military's day-to-day operations.

In the online seminar, Knapper praised South Korea as a "model and exemplar for the world" for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and noted that the U.S. has benefited from cooperation with Korea in handling the virus outbreaks.

But he pointed out that the two countries' cooperation in fighting the coronavirus was thanks to "years and decades of people-to-people exchanges and educational exchanges between our two countries."

"I think everything we do bilaterally would not succeed were it not for two countries' rich history of exchanges, rich history of Korean students, researchers and scientists coming to the U.S. collaborating with their colleagues, building friendships and building other kind of collaborative efforts," he said.

The official then called for the two countries to bolster such people-to-people exchanges.

"Without those kinds of bridges being built every day, I think we are going to suffer in the future and I think we are going to lose future cooperative opportunities," he added.


Issue Keywords
Most Liked
Most Saved
Most Viewed More
Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!