S. Korea, U.S. reach agreement ‘in principle’ on sharing defense costs

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 (Yonhap) -- Seoul and Washington have reached an agreement "in principle" on sharing the costs of stationing American troops in South Korea, the State Department said Monday.

The two sides had appeared to be at an impasse over how to renew their Special Measures Agreement, which governs each side's contributions to the upkeep of 28,500 U.S. forces in South Korea.

The latest version expired at the end of December as negotiations continued over U.S. calls for a sharp increase in South Korea's contribution from some 960 billion won (US$858 million) last year to up to $1.2 billion.

"The United States and the Republic of Korea have reached an agreement in principle on a new Special Measures Agreement," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap. "Both sides are committed to working out remaining technical issues as quickly as possible."

A diplomatic source in Seoul said earlier that Washington appears set to accept South Korea's request to contribute under $1 billion in 2019. According to Washington's wishes, that would be a one-year contract, as opposed to the previous five-year deal.

The source attributed the compromise to the two countries' efforts to focus on their diplomacy with North Korea ahead of the second U.S.-North Korea summit planned for later this month.

"The United States appreciates the considerable resources the ROK provides to support the Alliance, including its contribution through the Special Measures Agreement towards the cost of maintaining the presence of U.S. forces in Korea," the spokesperson said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

"For nearly seven decades, the ROK has stood as an exemplary ally, partner and friend of the United States," the official added. "We stand by our ROK ally, including through shared obligations under our Mutual Defense Treaty. The U.S. commitment to the security of the ROK and its people remains ironclad."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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