Posted April. 17, 2009 08:10,
Korea and the United States will hold their first high-level talks Thursday next week on an agreement for the proposed relocation of U.S. troops in Korea.
Military sources yesterday said the two allies will reach a conclusion through high-level talks after failing to do so despite years of working-level negotiations.
Leading Seoul at the talks will be Vice Defense Minister Chang Su-man, while Washington will be led by Gen. Walter Sharp, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea.
At their talks, the two sides will narrow differences on matters such as the proposed relocation of the Yongsan Garrison and 2nd Infantry Division to Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province. Originally scheduled for September last year, the relocation was postponed due to a delayed final agreement.
The Korean Defense Ministry said in January that a final agreement would come before the end of the month, as the two countries had no differences with the Program Management Consortium, a contractor for the relocation, over the schedule and costs. They failed to narrow their differences at the last minute, however.
The biggest sticking point is the timing of the relocation of the infantry division. While Washington wants to complete the relocation by 2016 due to budgetary and technical reasons, Seoul says 2015.
The two sides are known to have agreed to relocate the garrison, which would house the joint U.S.-Korea forces to replace the Combined Forces Command around 2011, by December 2014.
According to the consortiums final proposal submitted in January, Seoul will pay 5.56 trillion won (4.1 billion U.S. dollars) for the relocation of the garrison, and another 3.3 trillion won (2.4 billion dollars) for environmental cleanup and the construction of the Pyeongtaek base.
Washington will foot 6.86 trillion won (5.1 billion dollars) to move the infantry division and other installations.
A military source said, Seoul plans to conclude the relocation negotiations as soon as possible through the high-level talks.