Seoul and Washington agree to accelerate talks on keeping US troops in Korea

The two sides agreed to hold the next round of talks in the near future, first discussing their plan through diplomatic channels

Seoul and Washington agree to accelerate talks on keeping US troops in Korea

The Republic of Korea and the US have agreed to resolve the issue of sharing the cost of maintaining US troops on the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible. The South Korean foreign ministry said on Friday following a video conference between Republic of Korea commissioner Jong-eun-bo and his US counterpart Donna Welton.

“The two sides had a frank discussion in which they discussed their differences in order to work out a mutually acceptable solution”, –  the statement said. The Foreign Ministry noted that Seoul and Washington representatives agreed to conclude the cost-sharing talks as soon as possible and thereby “contribute to strengthening the bilateral alliance, which is key to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.” The two sides agreed to hold the next round of talks in the near future, first discussing their plan through diplomatic channels.

Since 2018, Washington has been demanding that Seoul increase its share of contributions to the US contingent in the Republic of Korea. Thus, South Korean joint defence spending in 2019 has been increased by 8.2%, to 1.04 trillion won ($915 million). In November 2019, it was reported that Washington had demanded that Seoul increase contributions almost five-fold, to $4.7 billion. It was also noted that the United States insisted that South Korea pay for the costs of maintaining some US military units outside the Korean peninsula as well.

Negotiations for a new agreement began in September 2019. At the end of March 2020, the parties tentatively agreed to increase South Korea’s share by 13%. However, the final agreement was not reached due to the opposition of the then US President Donald Trump.

US troops have been in South Korea since the Korean War (1950-1953). The terms of their stay are governed by an agreement on mutual defence assistance signed by the two countries on 26 January 1950.

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