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S. Korean lawmakers tell U.S. they can't accept hefty hike in defense costs

Updated: 2019-11-22 16:11:10 KST

Amid a tug-of-war between South Korea and the U.S. over their share of the defense costs for next year, South Korean lawmakers have made their way to the U.S. to say Seoul can't accept a drastic increase in its share of the costs.

The floor leaders of South Korea's three largest parties - the ruling Democratic Party, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the centrist Bareunmirae Party - met with Stephen Biegun on Thursday.

Biegun is currently U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, but has been nominated to be the next deputy secretary of state.

"We said it's not easy for us to accept Washington's unilateral demand for an excessive and hefty increase of the defense costs burden, when there's no dramatic change in circumstances."

In turn, Biegun expressed that there needs to be a (quote)"renewal" of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, under which Seoul pays more than it does now to station American troops on the Korean Peninsula.

"The U.S. seems to be portraying a new form of South Korea-U.S. alliance and as far as I understood, an increase in our defense costs burden goes in line with that."

"Biegun said it will be a tougher negotiation than the ones in the past."

The latest round of talks between Seoul and Washington took place early this week, but broke down within an hour.

Washington walked out first, accusing Seoul of making proposals that didn't meet Washington's request for a fair share.

Seoul pays 870-million U.S. dollars for this year under the current deal and reports have suggested the Trump administration has demanded Seoul pay five billion dollars next year.

But despite the vast gap between Seoul and Washington on financial issues, the U.S. maintains it will keep its military forces in South Korea.

The Pentagon said there was (quote)"absolutely no truth" to a South Korean report that the U.S. military was "preparing to withdraw one brigade" from South Korea, which consists of 2-thousand to 4-thousand troops.

The U.S. Defense Department then demanded the Chosun Ilbo immediately retract the story.

Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.

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