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Seoul-Washington defense cost sharing agreement hits logjam

Seoul-Washington defense cost sharing agreement hits logjam

Posted April. 03, 2020 07:38,   

Updated April. 03, 2020 07:38


The final agreement for the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) between South Korea and the United States over U.S. Forces South Korea is being further delayed. With Seoul’s stance on the burden sharing agreement turning more careful, experts say that the two sides have yet to iron out their differences in core agendas including the total sum the South Korean government is to contribute to the deployment of American troops.

“The negotiation is still on-going,” said a diplomatic source, indicating that the two sides were not being able to finalize the deal. Even though South Korean officials had a non-contact meeting with the U.S. negotiation team until Wednesday, they did not release any report on the progress of the talks. One of the officials met reporters on Wednesday and responded, saying “there is no knowing the result until the negotiation is over.”

This is a far cry from the remarks from Tuesday by Jeong Eun-bo, Korea’s top negotiator in the defense cost-sharing talks, who expected that the talks would be “finalized in a near future.” But the diplomatic authorities say it doesn’t change the fact that a significant progress has been made in the talks. Pundits say that the negotiators might be facing an unexpected logjam, given that they remain silent about the current status of the negotiation.

Washington has not made any official signal for an imminent deal-clinching in a stark contrast with Seoul’s optimistic view. A Washington official said Wednesday that the talks are still under progress and will continue for a fair agreement, suggesting that the two sides have yet to strike a deal on the total amount of payment. The South Korean government has made a rather overly optimistic interpretation about the progress of the talks, said diplomatic experts.

Gi-Jae Han record@donga.com