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New defense cost-sharing deal not to cover USFK's off-peninsula missions: officials

Diplomacy 17:48 March 10, 2021

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- The new defense cost-sharing deal between South Korea and the United States will not cover costs for U.S. troops' activities outside the Korean Peninsula, officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. had demanded that South Korea pay significantly more so as to cover the USFK's off-peninsula activities, as well as the deployment of U.S. military assets to South Korea and the operation of troops assigned to the USFK on a rotational basis.

"It is true that the U.S. side (under the Trump government) had made such a demand. But we've flatly rejected it, and no such discussions took place during the latest round of talks," a defense ministry official told reporters.

"The two sides have not shown any differences on the matter," the official added.

South Korea and the U.S. agreed upon a new Special Measures Agreement (SMA), under which Seoul will raise its payment for stationing the 28,500-strong USFK troops by 13.9 percent this year from 2019, the Seoul government said Wednesday.

The multi-year contract valid through 2025 also calls for Seoul's payment to be linked to the increase rate of its defense spending.

"The accord is about our contribution to the hosting of U.S. troops here for the defense of the Korean Peninsula. The new deal is made under the typical framework that involves three expenditure categories," another official said.

The three areas are the partial costs for South Korean employees in USFK installations; the construction of military facilities such as those for troop education, training, communications and other purposes; and logistical support for ammunition storage, transportation and facility maintenance.

But civic groups and critics have pointed to growing chances for the USFK to carry out missions outside the country more frequently under America's push for greater "strategic flexibility" and called for ways to ensure transparency in administering the SMA funds.

The American troops are currently stationed in South Korea to deter North Korean aggression, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

This file photo taken Feb. 27, 2020, shows the U.S. Forces Korea's Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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