Monday, April 19, 2021

Cost-sharing deal for troops agreed between United States and South Korea

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The United States and South Korea have reached an agreement in principle on a new cost-sharing deal for the presence of US troops to counter North Korean threats of aggression, both sides said.

The State Department said, “the deal included an agreed increase in Seoul’s share of spending, but did not provide details”. The office wrote on Twitter that if concluded, the deal would reaffirm the alliance between the United States and South Korea as a link for peace and security. Also the prosperity for Northeast Asia.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a similar statement that the two countries are seeking to sign earlier agreement. It said the agreement was reached after three days of face-to-face talks in Washington.

The US has about 28,000 troops in South Korea to prevent possible aggression by North Korea. This is a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. But how much South Korea has to pay for US military presence has been a tough issue in bilateral relations. Trump administration has often called on its Asian allies to dramatically increase its holdings.

In 2019, the Allies reached a deal requiring South Korea to pay an estimated $924 million for US troop presence. It is an increase of $830 million from the previous year. However, negotiations on new cost-sharing plan fell through due to US demands Seoul pay five times more than before.

The State Department said in a statement that “it made sense to increase the proportion of spending in the south. But not to be more precise”.

The Wall Street Journal, which first covered the deal, said it would run until 2025.

American Alliance with South Korea

In a statement, the State Department said, “The American Alliance is a source of our great strength. These developments reflect the commitment to revitalizing and modernizing our democratic alliance to promote security and shared prosperity”.

Many conservatives in South Korea fear that President Donald Trump could use failed cost-sharing talks as an excuse for the withdrawal of some US troops from South Korea as a basis for negotiating deadlocked nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The United States and South Korea have also suspended or canceled some of their military exercises in support of nuclear diplomacy in recent years. Suspension ultimately falling apart over disputes over US sanctions on North Korea.

On Monday, the South Korean and US militaries began annual military exercises that will last nine days. The South Korean military said the drills were command post and computer simulation exercises and did not include field exercises. They also said the Allies were reviewing factors such as the status of Covid-19. Also the diplomatic efforts to resume nuclear talks with North Korea when they decide to undertake such drills.

The prospect of a new cost-sharing plan has widened as the Biden government attempts to strengthen its alliances with South Korea and other countries.

South Korea had begun paying for United States military operations in the early of 1990s after rebuilding its economy following the devastation of the Korean War. A large American military presence in South Korea is a symbol of a nation’s alliance, but also a source of long-standing anti-American sentiment.

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