Korea, US to hold new round of talks on defense cost sharing

Korea's chief negotiator for the talks Lee Tae-woo answers question from a reporter in Jongno District, Seoul, March 15. Yonhap

Korea and the United States began a new round of negotiations Tuesday on sharing the cost for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), Seoul’s foreign ministry officials said.

The three-day talks in Seoul came about two weeks after Korea’s chief negotiator Lee Tae-woo and his U.S. counterpart, Linda Specht, held the third round of negotiations on the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) in Washington.

The allies launched the negotiations in April, earlier than expected, amid speculation that Seoul wants an early deal to avoid tough bargaining with Washington in case former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Under Trump’s presidency, Washington had demanded more than a fivefold increase in Seoul’s payment to $5 billion.

The current six-year SMA, due to expire at the end of next year, committed Korea to paying $1.03 billion for 2021, a 13.9 percent increase from 2019, 추천 and increasing the payment every year for the subsequent four years in line with the rise in Seoul’s defense spending.

Since 1991, Seoul has partially shared the cost for Korean USFK workers; the construction of military installations, such as barracks, as well as training, educational, operational and communications facilities; and other logistical support

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