U.S. committed to ‘mutually acceptable’ SMA deal with S. Korea: State Dept.

WASHINGTON, The United States is committed to quickly reaching a defense cost-sharing agreement with South Korea that will be acceptable to both and help strengthen their alliance, an official from the U.S. Department of State said Friday.

The remarks came after Seoul officials said the sides agreed to seek an early conclusion of talks on Seoul's share of the cost in maintaining 28,500 U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula in a meeting held Friday (Seoul time).

"We decline to comment on or confirm any specific details of our ongoing diplomatic conversations, but I can tell you that U.S. and ROK negotiators agreed to continue negotiations in the near future and are committed to expeditiously concluding an updated Special Measures Agreement (SMA) that will strengthen our alliance and our combined defense posture," the department official told Yonhap News Agency in an emailed response to related questions.

ROK stands for the Republic of Korea, South Korea's official name.

The negotiations began more than a year earlier, in 2019, before the latest SMA expired at the end of that year.

The sides, however, have been unable to narrow their gap.

South Korea offered to increase its annual burden-sharing by 13 percent from US$870 million it paid under the 2019 agreement.

The U.S., under the former Trump administration, is said to have demanded a 50 percent spike to $1.3 billion a year.

This week's SMA talks marked the first of their kind since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.

The department official said negotiators from both countries engaged in sincere discussions this week to resolve their differences and seek a "mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of the alliance."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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