Seoul and Washington pick realistic deal on defense co-sharing

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2019-02-11 09:53 Updated : 2019-02-11 09:53
글씨작게 글씨크게

[REUTERS / Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- Ahead of a crucial summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, US President Donald Trump took a realistic option in his campaign aimed at forcing South Korea to pay more for the presence of American troops.

In a deal signed on Sunday, Seoul agreed to pay some 1.039 trillion won ($925 million), up 8.2 percent from 960 billion won in 2018, to share the burden for the presence of some 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea under a mutual defense pact dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War.

It's a one-year contract which can be extended. The deal followed months of negotiations which once bogged down over strong U.S. demands for a big increase in defense cost-sharing. Trump has demanded that wealthy allies such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia pay significantly more for an American troop presence.

At the start of negotiations that began in March last year, U.S. negotiators had wanted South Korea to pay about 1.4 trillion won a year, but they retracted demands at a final round of talks that Seoul cover the cost of deploying aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and strategic bombers.

In return for U.S. concessions, South Korea gave up a multi-year contract. "I think at this point, we were able to close the gap on the total amount of the number," Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said, citing "a number of domestic steps that we now need to go through."

The deal requires parliamentary approval in April. South Korean civic groups have insisted that the peace-keeping role of American troops on the Korean peninsula would diminish due to an inter-Korean thaw.