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S. Korean, U.S. diplomats to meet in Seoul ahead of negotiations on defense cost sharing

15:47 August 18, 2019

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. diplomats will hold talks in Seoul this week over the allies' envisioned negotiations on the sharing of the cost for the upkeep of American troops here, a diplomatic source said Sunday.

Chang Won-sam at Seoul's foreign ministry and his U.S. counterpart, Timothy Betts, plan to meet Tuesday. They were the chief negotiators of the previous negotiations on the Special Measures Agreement (SMA), a defense cost-sharing deal for the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).

"Chief negotiators Chang and Betts plan to exchange views on the negotiations on the 11th SMA that will soon be launched," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Chang and Betts are unlikely to be directly involved in the upcoming SMA negotiations, as both Seoul and Washington are expected to form new teams for what would be yet another round of grueling negotiations.

Under this year's 10th SMA, Seoul agreed to pay 1.04 trillion won (US$858.7 million), an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year. As the one-year deal is set to expire at the end of this year, the allies are expected to launch new SMA negotiations soon.

The upcoming negotiations are expected to be tough, as U.S. President Donald Trump has been pressuring Seoul to jack up its spending.

Since 1991, Seoul has shouldered partial costs under the SMA -- for Korean civilians hired by the USFK, the construction of military facilities to maintain the allies' readiness and other forms of support.

Chang Won-sam (R), South Korea's delegate to defense cost talks with the United States, exchanges a letter of accord with his counterpart Timothy Betts in a signing ceremony in Seoul on Feb. 10, 2019, in this photo provided by the foreign ministry. (Yonhap)



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