S. Korea announces hike in payment for United States troops

Nellie Chapman
February 13, 2019

The South Korean Parliament has to approve the agreement before it becomes final. Unlike past cost-sharing deals, which lasted multiple years, the new agreement would only be for one year, forcing negotiators to hammer out a new pact in the coming months, it added.

"We have a number of domestic steps that we need to go through", Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said as she met with the top USA negotiator Timothy Betts.

"We believe in our ability to organize such kinds of events after our success in hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2017", said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang.

"The United States government realises that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", said Betts.

That's 8.two percent more than Seoul contributed last year, reflecting a rise in South Korea's defense budget this year.

Late a year ago, the US military had warned the South Korean employees on its bases that they may be put on leave from mid-April if no agreement was reached. This would allow Washington to call for additional increases in the amount South Korea would pay for the following year. In their meeting, Kang said the allies were able to close the gap on the size of South Korea's contribution thanks to goodwill and trust.

But both sides worked to hammer out an agreement to minimise the impact on South Koreans working on USA military bases, and focus on nuclear talks ahead of a second U.S.

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"South Korea has to think about the cost involved in keeping the deterrence at the level they would like, while the threat is clearly present", James Kim, global relations expert at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told Sputnik Monday.

But on Sunday, South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement that the United States had affirmed it would not be changing the scale of its troop presence.

Pham visited Pyongyang for meetings ahead of the next summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for February 27-28.

Trump surprised Seoul and many of his own aides when he announced after his first summit with North Korea on June 12 that he was suspending joint war games with South Korea, which he called "very expensive" and "provocative".

Major joint exercises have been suspended, but some small-scale drills have continued, earning rebukes from North Korea's state media in recent months. Since the summit, Pyongyang has not tested any nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles.

The choice of Vietnam as host of this month's summit between Trump and Kim shows the Southeast Asian nation is headed in the right direction, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Tuesday.

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