WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States and South Korea have reached an agreement in principle on a new agreement to share the cost of the presence of American troops, which is intended to be a bulwark against the threat of North Korean aggression, both countries announced.
The State Department’s Office of Political-Military Affairs said Sunday that the deal includes a “negotiated increase” in Seoul’s share of the cost, but did not provide details. The Office wrote on Twitter that the agreement, if finalized, would reaffirm the treaty alliance between the United States and South Korea as “the axis of peace, security and prosperity for Northeast Asia.”
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a similar statement on Monday, saying the two countries are seeking to provisionally sign the deal. He said the deal came after three days of face-to-face talks in Washington.
The United States maintains about 28,000 troops in South Korea to help deter possible North Korean aggression, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. But how much South Korea should pay for a US military presence was a thorny issue in bilateral relations under the Trump administration, which often asked its Asian ally to dramatically increase its involvement.
In 2019, the allies reached an agreement that required South Korea to pay about $ 924 million (1.04 trillion won) for the presence of American troops, an increase from $ 830 million the previous year. But negotiations for a new cost-sharing plan fell through due to a US demand that Seoul pay five times what it had previously paid.
The State Department said in a statement that the increase in the South’s share of the cost was “significant” but not more specific.
The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report on the deal, said it would last until 2025. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it could not immediately confirm the report.
In its statement, the State Department said: “America’s alliances are a tremendous source of our strength. This development reflects the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to revitalizing and modernizing our democratic alliances around the world to promote our shared security and prosperity. “
Many conservatives in South Korea were concerned that then-President Donald Trump could use failed cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to withdraw some US troops from South Korea as a bargaining chip in the now-stalled nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong. A. And South Korea also stopped or canceled some of its military exercises in recent years to support nuclear diplomacy, which ultimately fell apart due to disputes over US sanctions on North Korea.
On Monday, the armies of South Korea and the United States began annual military drills that would last nine days. The South Korean military said the drills are command post exercises and computer simulation and do not involve field training. He said the allies reviewed factors such as the status of COVID-19 and diplomatic efforts to resume nuclear talks with North Korea when it decided to conduct the drills.
It is unclear how North Korea would respond to the drills. In the past, the North used to call regular drills between the United States and South Korea an invasion rehearsal and responded with missile tests. Lee Jong-joo, a spokesman for the South Korean Unification Ministry, said on Monday that Seoul hopes Pyongyang will act with flexibility and wisdom in response to its efforts to promote peace on the Korean peninsula.
The prospect of a new cost-sharing plan has increased as the Biden administration has been trying to strengthen its alliance with South Korea and other countries.
South Korea began paying for US military deployment in the early 1990s, after rebuilding its economy after the devastation of the Korean War. The large US military presence in South Korea is a symbol of the countries’ alliance, but also a source of long-standing anti-American sentiment.
Associated Press reporter Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.