Korea, U.S. agree to keep things fair

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Korea, U.S. agree to keep things fair

Korea and the United States agreed Wednesday to work toward a “reasonable and fair” sharing of the cost of stationing American troops here, the Foreign Ministry said after wrapping up the opening round of negotiations on the issue.

The two sides held two days of talks from Tuesday to discuss renewing the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on determining how much Seoul should pay for stationing some 28,500 U.S. soldiers in the country. The current deal is set to expire on Dec. 31.

“Korea and the United States agreed to continue the negotiations for sharing the cost at a reasonable and fair level based on mutual respect and trust as allies in a dynamic and new negotiating environment,” the ministry said in a release.

The talks were led by Chang Won-sam, interim chief negotiator for Korea, and his American counterpart, James DeHart.

Both sides also agreed that the Korea-U.S. alliance is stronger than ever and that the defense cost talks have been carried out so far under the common goal of strengthening and developing the bilateral alliance, it added. The next round of the talks will be held in the U.S. in October.

Trump has long demanded Seoul pay more for the U.S. troop presence, highlighting his position again during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

“We are also revitalizing our alliances by making it very clear that all of our partners are expected to pay their fair share of the tremendous defense burden which the United States has borne in the past,” Trump said.

The defense cost-sharing issue was also discussed when Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump held summit talks on the sidelines of the UN gathering on Monday.

Moon stressed that the cost should come at a fair and reasonable level.

Under this year’s SMA, signed in February and valid until Dec. 31, Korea agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won ($868 million), an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year.

Since 1991, Seoul has shouldered partial costs under the SMA - for Korean civilians hired by the U.S. Forces Korea, the construction of military facilities to maintain the allies’ readiness and other forms of support.

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