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U.S. ambassador calls for even USFK cost sharing

By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 8, 2008

SEOUL — The U.S. wants South Korea to pay a larger share of U.S. Forces Korea’s costs, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said Wednesday.

Vershbow’s comments reiterate USFK commander Gen. B.B. Bell’s call last year for equal support of military costs not associated with stationing U.S. personnel in South Korea.

Vershbow’s comments in the South Korean Ministry of Defense-sponsored Korea Defense Daily also called for a more enduring agreement on cost sharing.

“The U.S. would like Korea to share the level of support up to 50 percent in terms of Non-Personnel Stationing Costs,” Vershbow was quoted as saying. “My personal wish is that the new administration could reach a [Special Measures Agreement] for a longer term, instead of having to negotiate every year or a year and a half.”

A U.S. Embassy spokesman confirmed Vershbow’s comments with Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

South Korea currently pays about 41 percent of USFK’s upkeep, officials said.

That cost-share agreement was made during President Roh Moo-hyun’s administration, which was seen by political analysts as less enthusiastic about the U.S.-South Korean military alliance than that of new President Lee Myung-Bak.

“I am very pleased that President Lee has emphasized that the Korea-U.S. alliance has to be strengthened and upgraded,” Vershbow said.

South Korea agreed to pay 725.5 billion won ($770 million at the time) for USFK in 2007, up 45.1 billion won from 2006.

It also agreed to increase payment in line with the consumer price index, according to the deal.

Vershbow also discounted South Korean media reports that the planned move of Yongsan Garrison and nearly all U.S. military assets north of Seoul to Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek would be further delayed until 2015.

“I have seen the reports, but this is not something we have to worry about right now,” Vershbow said. “We already had a ground-breaking ceremony last year, and I know that work is proceeding as scheduled. I know that the relocation was postponed from 2008 to 2012, but I don’t think there will be any further delays.”