Monday, 26 August, 2019

South Korea, US sign cost-sharing deal for American troops

US President Donald Trump at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland on Friday US President Donald Trump at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland on Friday
Deanna Wagner | 12 February, 2019, 05:59

Chang Won-sam, the top negotiator in defense cost-sharing negotiations and Timothy Betts, acting deputy assistant secretary and senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements of U.S. State Department signed the one-year contract at the foreign ministry in Seoul, Sunday which the South will pay 1.038 trillion won ($923 million) for stationing 28,500 USFK soldiers in South Korea. But with US President Donald Trump calling for his allies to pay an increased share of their defense costs, South Korea was under pressure to pay almost double the current amount, equivalent to nearly $1.4 billion a year.

South Korea and the United States struck a new deal Sunday that increases Seoul's contribution for the cost of the American military presence on its soil, overcoming previous failed negotiations that caused worries about their decades-long alliance.

President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that the second summit between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States will be a critical turning point for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman of South Korea's presidential Blue House, said on Sunday that President Moon Jae-in would discuss the upcoming summit with Trump "soon" and that US and North Korean officials would be meeting in an unspecified Asian country next week.

"It has been a very long process, but ultimately a very successful process", South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said of negotiations with the Americans.

The new arrangement, pending ratification by the South Korean parliament in April, would increase Seoul's share of the cost by a little over 8 percent to $924 million in US dollars.

South Korea has shared the financial burden for USA troops since the early 1990s.

Upon review from the presidential office and the Legislation Ministry, the tentative pact is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval sometime around April, before it can take effect. "We are very pleased our consultations resulted in agreement that will strengthen transparency and deepen our cooperation and the alliance".

Significant snowstorm expected Tuesday
Northern suburbs and northwestern suburbs stand the greatest chance of getting maybe 1 to 2 inches of snow. 8 p.m. Snow will mix with - or change to ice pellets later Tuesday morning, and to freezing rain Tuesday afternoon .

During his annual State of the Union Address on February 5, Trump announced that he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a second time on February 27-28 in Vietnam.

But Trump told U.S. broadcaster CBS last week that he had "no plans" to remove U.S. troops from South Korea as part of a deal at the upcoming summit, although he admitted "maybe someday" he would withdraw them, adding: "It's very expensive to keep troops there".

"Maybe someday", he said in a CBS News interview.

After the June meeting, Trump announced a halt to joint military exercises with South Korea, saying they were expensive and paid for mostly by the United States. The North and its main backer, China, also would like to see the US military presence removed from their doorstep.

U.S. Forces Korea, the main command, said in its Strategic Digest that Seoul paid about 41 percent of the cost.

Late past year, the USA military warned Korean workers on its bases they might be put on leave from mid-April if no deal was agreed.

Since the deal is only valid for one year, the two sides may soon have to return to the negotiating table.