US, South Korea reach deal on military costs

The long sought agreement removes a potential irritant ahead of the next Trump-Kim summit

Photo: AFP South Korean and US soldiers during joint exercises

The United States and South Korea struck a one-year deal on the shared costs of their military alliance on Sunday, removing a potential vulnerability in an upcoming US-North Korean presidential summit later this month. Under the new agreement, South Korea will contribute about $890m a year for the US military presence, which represents an 8.2% increase from the previous five-year deal which expired at the end of 2018.

The allies had struggled to reach a breakthrough despite 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump’s repeated calls for a sharp increase in South Korea’s contribution.Thus, the agreed costs are less than the billion dollars or more Washington had asked for. But on the other hand Seoul, which had sought a three-to five-year agreement, only got one. This potentially forces both sides back to the bargaining table within months. 

Before that, however, the current deal now needs to be ratified by South Korean lawmakers before taking effect.

The agreement is similar to those that the Trump administration wants to strike with other allies who host large US military bases, such as Japan and Germany. Yet, South Korea's resistance on the matter could delay such plans, or make it more difficult.

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