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U.S., S. Korea 'very close' to reaching agreement on defense cost-sharing: State Dept.

Diplomacy 07:37 March 04, 2021

WASHINGTON, March 3 (Yonhap) -- The United States and South Korea are very close to reaching an agreement in their drawn out negotiations to set Seoul's share of the cost for maintaining U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula, a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday.

"We are very close to reaching agreement on an updated Special Measures Agreement (SMA)," the department official told Yonhap News Agency in an email.

The remarks come as the allies are set to hold a new round of talks this week in Washington.

"We can confirm that on March 5, 2021, representatives of the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) will meet to discuss the 11th Special Measures Agreement in Washington, D.C.," the official said, asking not to be identified.

The talks on renewing the SMA began in late 2019, but the countries have been unable to reach agreement, despite the last bilateral agreement expiring at the end of 2019.

The former Donald Trump administration had initially demanded Seoul pay US$5 billion a year to help upkeep the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea before reducing its demand to a 50 percent increase.

Seoul had offered to increase its cost sharing by 13 percent from the $870 million it paid in 2019.

U.S. President Joe Biden earlier said he will not seek to "extort" U.S. allies.

In February, the U.S. and Japan signed a one-year extension of their bilateral SMA, with a 1.2 percent increase in Japan's contribution to their joint defense.


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