SEOUL — South Korea will have to pay almost $9 billion to relocate U.S. military bases to Pyeongtaek, about $3 billion more than defense officials estimated last spring, several South Korean newspapers reported this week.

According to some reports, unnamed sources said completion of the Camp Humphreys expansion at Pyeongtaek could be delayed by as much as four years to 2016. U.S. military bases in and north of Seoul are supposed to close and their troops are scheduled to move to Humphreys by 2012.

The South Korean reports said the cost of the relocation has increased because of rising costs for construction, compensation for Pyeongtaek landowners whose property will become part of the new base, and clean up of U.S. military bases being returned to South Korea.

The reports said the new amounts were based on a Ministry of National Defense audit.

When asked about the possible cost increase, a South Korean defense spokesman told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday that official numbers for the cost and length of construction will be released in August.

A U.S. Forces Korea spokesman said Tuesday he "cannot speculate" on whether the Humphreys construction would be completed by the scheduled date of 2012.

He also said USFK can’t release or discuss current estimates for the U.S. share of the base relocation until both governments have agreed on it.

Both governments have argued over splitting the costs of stationing U.S. troops here.

Former USFK commander Gen. B.B. Bell said two weeks ago that South Korea needs to pay half the non-personnel stationing costs of keeping U.S. troops on the peninsula. South Korea now pays about 41 percent, which includes salaries for Korean employees who work on U.S. installations, logistics, and military construction.

Bell told Congress on March 12 that South Korea had paid "about $2 billion" in a relocation effort "that’s going to cost them around $10 billion." His comments caused an uproar in South Korea, which had pledged to pay only about $4.5 billion toward the move.

Bell blamed his comments on a "misstatement or mischaracterization" in a transcript of his speech, but the news service that provided the transcript said it reported his comments accurately.

A Ministry of National Defense spokesman said in March that the two countries never agreed that South Korea would pay $10 billion toward the relocation.

Bell said during his two-and-a-half-year tenure that South Korea wasn’t contributing enough money, which could hurt his forces’ fighting ability.

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