Vastavam web: Officials signed a short-term agreement on Sunday to boost South Korea’s contribution toward the upkeep of U.S. troops on the peninsula, after a previous deal lapsed amid U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for the South to pay more. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, where the United States has maintained a military presence since the 1950-53 Korean War. The new deal must still be approved by South Korea’s parliament, but it would boost its contribution to 1.03 trillion won ($890 million) from 960 billion won in 2018.
“It has been a very long process, but ultimately a very successful process,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a meeting before another official from the foreign ministry initialled the agreement. While acknowledging lingering domestic criticism of the new deal and the need for parliamentary approval, Kang said the response had “been positive so far”.
The U.S. State Department senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements, Timothy Betts, met Kang before signing the agreement on behalf of the United States, and told her the money represented a small but important part of South Korea’s support for the alliance. The allies had struggled to reach a breakthrough despite 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump’s repeated calls for a sharp increase in South Korea’s contribution.
South Korean officials have said they had sought to limit its burden to $1 trillion won and make the accord valid for at least three years. But both sides worked to hammer out an agreement to minimise the impact on South Koreans working on U.S. military bases, and focus on nuclear talks ahead of a second U.S.-North Korea summit, Seoul officials said.
The disagreement had raised the prospect that Trump could decide to withdraw at least some troops from South Korea, as he has in other countries like Syria. But on Sunday, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that the United States had affirmed it would not be changing the scale of its troop presence. 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 U.S. and North Korean officials would be meeting in an unspecified Asian country next week.
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. About 70 percent of South Korea’s contribution covers the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean employees who provide administrative, technical and other services for the U.S. military.