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US–South Korea military negotiations could cost the alliance

79 12 12

INTER-Korean rapprochement, ushered in by the series of North–South summits and working-level meetings that took place in 2018, is changing the security environment on the Korean Peninsula.

While reconciliation between North and South Korea develops, the latter’s relationship with the United States is running into difficulty. Seoul and Washington failed to renegotiate a defence cost-sharing agreement in 2018, which then expired on 31 December.

On 10 February 2019, after a month of extended negotiations, Seoul and Washington finally struck a deal on South Korea’s financial contributions to the non-personnel costs for the US Forces Korea (USFK).

SEE ALSO: A look at the shifting political sands in Taiwan and South Korea

Under the new agreement, subject to South Korea’s parliamentary approval, Seoul will contribute about 1.04 trillion won (US$923 million). This amount is less than the US$1.2 billion Washington reportedly demanded. But it is an 8.2 percent increase from 2018 when Seoul paid 960 billion won (US$850 million) for the 28,500 US troops stationed on its soil, which accounted for roughly 41 percent of the total non-personnel costs.

The negotiations also reduced the original five-year term of the Special Measures Agreement (SMA). The Trump administration insisted upon applying a one-year limit, making it possible for the United States to demand an increase in South Korea’s share again in the near future.

Since contributing US$150 million to the USFK through the first SMA implemented in 1991, South Korea has incrementally increased its share year by year. But in 2018 Washington asked South Korea to drastically increase its contribution by 150 to 200 percent.

U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in shake hands........

© Asian Correspondent