U.S. demands S. Korea share cost of deploying strategic assets around peninsula: official

SEOUL, The United States has demanded South Korea share the cost of deploying U.S. strategic assets around the Korean Peninsula during recent talks to renew their cost-sharing agreement for American troops stationed here, a foreign ministry official said Friday.

Seoul rejected the request saying the issue should not be part of the negotiation.

"Our basic stance on this matter is that the agreement deals with how to share the upkeep cost of stationing the U.S. troops," the official told a group of reporters on condition of anonymity.

The two sides held their second round of the talks on the southern island of Jeju earlier this week. The first round was held in Hawaii last month.

The official said that there are "big differences" to be ironed out in the amount of money proposed by each side, which he said requires more discussion going forward. He didn't provide specific numbers.

With regard to another potential issue of how to share the cost of operating the U.S. THAAD anti-missile system that was installed here last year, he said it was not mentioned in the meeting.

He noted, however, that the matter could be discussed as the cost of the THAAD operation could be dealt with in line with the "logistical support" part stipulated in the agreement.

"That is what our defense ministry is saying, and I think it makes sense," he said.

The official said that South Korea and the U.S. will hold their next round of meetings in Washington in May.

About 28,500 American troops are stationed here.

South Korea has shared U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) upkeep costs since 1991 under the Special Measures Agreement (SMA). Seoul's contribution has increased to around 960 billion won ($887.5 million) this year from 150 billion won in 1991.

The U.S. has demanded South Korea increase its contribution. Speculation has it that the U.S. is demanding South Korea pay up to twice what it currently contributes.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha earlier said that South Korea has been a "very exemplary" ally for the U.S. in terms of sharing the military cost and added that the government will strive to draw a reasonable and transparent deal that its people and the National Assembly can agree with.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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