Saturday, 16 February, 2019

S. Korea announces hike in payment for USA troops

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha right and Timothy Betts acting Deputy Assistant Secretary and Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the U.S. Department of State stand for the media before their meeting at Foreign Mini South Korea signs deal to pay more for US troops
Kenny Thornton | 13 February, 2019, 01:43

"The United States government realises that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", he said.

"We believe in our ability to organize such kinds of events after our success in hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2017", said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang. Past agreements lasted five years, Reuters notes, and the South Korean side was hoping to extend the 2019 deal at least three years.

While acknowledging lingering domestic criticism of the new deal and the need for parliamentary approval, Ms Kang said the response had "been positive so far".

Timothy Betts (L), acting deputy assistant secretary and senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements in the U.S. Department of State and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during their meeting at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, on February 10, 2019.

The allies had failed to reach a new cost-sharing plan during some 10 rounds of talks.

The nationwide survey of 501 South Koreans found about 62.5 percent of respondents optimistic about the prospects for settling "the North Korean nuclear problem", while 35.2 percent said the summit would weaken the U.S.

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Seoul contributed around 960 billion won previous year - more than 40 percent of the total bill - financing the construction of American military facilities and paying South Korean civilians working on U.S. bases.

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. President Donald Trump has said South Korea should pay more.

Trump has complained that maintaining troops in South Korea is too expensive and said in the past that he would like to bring them home.

Vietnam welcomed the news, expressing confidence in its readiness to host the second Trump-Kim meeting.

South Korea insists it pays a fair share of the some $2 billion per year needed to keep the troops in the country, with funds mainly used for salaries of almost 9,000 local employees who provide food and administrative services, and other logistical needs. North Korea has not announced which of its cities would join Seoul, but experts say it is likely to be Pyongyang.

Late a year ago, the US military had warned the South Korean employees on its bases that they may be put on leave from mid-April if no agreement was reached. After the meeting, Trump suspended major joint military exercises with South Korea.

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