South Korea, U.S. making progress toward military cost-sharing agreement
SEOUL — A new military cost-sharing agreement between the United States and South Korea has not yet been reached, but progress is being made, officials said after concluding the latest round of talks Thursday in Washington.
The two-day meeting this week was the fourth round of talks since November. The two sides are still at odds over such issues as the new agreement’s length and the increasing amount of money Seoul has contributed to maintaining the military alliance in recent years.
According to South Korean negotiators, South Korea’s first direct contribution to support U.S. troops here — payments that began in 1991 — was $150 million. Last year, officials said, Seoul contributed $623 million.
The South Korean government wants either to freeze the funding at that level next year or to reduce it.
“There was progress, but differences still remain,” Kim Sook, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s North American Affairs Bureau, told reporters after the Thursday session.
Pentagon officials were unavailable for comment on the talks.
South Korea says it should pay less in coming years because of U.S. plans to reduce its presence by about 12,500 troops over the next three years. Under a plan signed last year, the United States removed 5,000 troops (including the 3,600 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division troops sent to Iraq) last year and 5,000 more this year.
According to Kim, the U.S. side is pressing for an agreement that more closely resembles the cost-sharing plan in Japan, where the Japanese government bears about 75 percent of the burden of the U.S. military infrastructure.
The two sides agreed to hold the next round of talks next month in Seoul.