US-South Korea military cost-sharing talks collapse
Iran Press TV
Tuesday, 19 November 2019 7:45 AM
The latest round of military cost-sharing talks between South Korea and the United States has collapsed, in a rare public disagreement in the 66-year-old alliance between the two countries.
Citing Foreign Ministry officials, South Korean media said negotiators left the table on Tuesday after just about an hour of discussions that had been scheduled to continue throughout the day.
"Our position is that it should be within the mutually acceptable Special Measures Agreement (SMA) framework that has been agreed upon by South Korea and the US for the past 28 years," the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement, using the official name of a cost-sharing deal already in place. "The US believes that the share of defense spending should be increased significantly by creating a new category."
According to South Korean lawmakers, US officials demanded that Seoul pay up to five billion dollars a year to keep the 28,500 American troops on South Korean soil, more than five times the 896 million dollars the country agreed to pay this year.
The US blamed the South.
Chief US negotiator James DeHart said the Americans cut short the talks to "give the Korean side some time to reconsider, and I hope to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of our great alliance."
"Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean negotiating team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing," he said.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, South Korean negotiator Jeong Eun-bo attributed the breakdown of the latest round of the talks to a "considerable gap" between the positions of the two sides.
However, he stressed that Washington had never mentioned the issues of scaling back or withdrawing troops from South Korea during the negotiations.
Any new cost-sharing deal would need the approval of the South Korean parliament, where ruling party lawmakers said this week they would "refuse to ratify any excessive outcome of the current negotiations" that deviate from the established principle and structure of previous pacts.
The American military presence in South Korea has stoked anti-US sentiments in the country.
The American military personnel have on many occasions caused outrage by committing various crimes, including rape and assault. The US forces were put under curfew in July after a drunken soldier attempted to steal a taxi and hit a Korean National Police officer in the process.
The Pentagon insists the troops are in South Korea to deter perceived threats from North Korea.
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