Breaking: South Korea, US formally sign cost-sharing deal on American military presence
The United States and South Korea have officially signed a cost-sharing agreement to maintain the presence of American troops in the East Asian country.
South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun and Rob Rapson, charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Seoul, signed the deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), in a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry building on Thursday.
Under the SMA, Seoul is to pay 1.05 billion dollars this year for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong US Forces Korea (USFK) until 2025.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the government would send the deal to the National Assembly for final ratification at the earliest date.
Seoul used to pay Washington about 920 million dollars a year. Negotiations for a new agreement stalled when former US President Donald Trump demanded a total of 5 billion dollars from South Korea and rejected Seoul’s offer to pay 13 percent more.
Last month, both countries agreed to increase South Korea’s share by 13.9 percent from 2019 and that Seoul’s contribution for the following four years will be based on increases in military costs.
Since 1991, Seoul has partially shouldered costs under the SMA for Korean USFK personnel, including the construction of military installations, such as barracks and training, educational, operational, and communications facilities as well as other logistical support.
The agreement comes as Seoul and Washington conducted their annual military exercises on March 15 with a low level of physical troop involvement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The joint military exercises annually draw opposition from peace groups in South Korea and around the world, also infuriating Pyongyang.