The United States is reportedly demanding South Korea to pay about 1.3 billion dollars a year for stationing of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). The amount is up 49% from last year’s defense cost-sharing deal. A rocky road is expected ahead since the amount Washington is asking is almost four times the 13% increase tentatively agreed by the two sides during working-level talks. The two sides are yet to set a date for additional negotiations.
According to a diplomatic source in Washington who is familiar with the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on Monday (local time), the U.S. wants South Korea to pay 1.3 billion dollars a year in its share of defense cost. Although there will be differences depending on foreign exchange rates, the U.S. is demanding South Korea to pay almost half more of the amount agreed under the 10th SMA. “1.3 billion dollars is up 49% from last year’s share of defense cost according to the foreign exchange rate applied by the U.S.,” the diplomatic source added.
Since U.S. President Donald Trump rejected an increase of 13% offered by South Korea in late March, the U.S. is known to have made the final offer of 1.3 billion dollars a year. A White House official said that Washington has been flexible in defense cost-sharing talks while lowering the amount considerably from 5 billion dollars to 1.3 billion dollars.
During a video seminar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies to discuss current issues on the Korean Peninsula on Monday, Marc Knapper, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Korea and Japan, said Washington has been “very flexible up until now” and called on Seoul to show flexibility. Knapper added he hopes that the agreement will be ratified quickly by South Korea’s National Assembly if the two sides reach a comprehensive deal on defense cost-sharing.
Meanwhile, Seoul is refusing to make further concessions. “It is true that the U.S. lowered the amount considerably from its initial offer but our position is clear,” said a South Korean official. “There has been no big change since the two sides tentatively reached a deal in April,” said another source who is familiar with the SMA talks.
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