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U.S. says much work remains for defense cost deal with S. Korea

04:15 February 22, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- Much work remains to narrow the gap in defense cost-sharing negotiations between South Korea and the United States, a State Department official said Friday, calling on Seoul to make a compromise.

The two countries have been negotiating a new agreement on splitting the cost of keeping 28,500 American troops in South Korea but failed to reach a deal after six rounds of talks.

The previous Special Measures Agreement expired at the end of last year, leaving South Koreans working on U.S. bases to face a potential furlough starting in April.

"While we are not going to comment or confirm media reports on specifics related to diplomatic discussions between close allies, I can report that significant work remains to narrow the gap between the two sides," the official told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity.

"During the course of negotiations, we have adjusted and compromised. We're looking for compromise from the government of Korea as well," he added.

Washington has demanded a hefty increase in Seoul's financial contributions at U.S. President Donald Trump's urging that allies pay more for their defense.

Under last year's one-year deal, Seoul agreed to pay US$870 million toward Korean workers' wages, the construction of some military facilities and logistical support.

"The U.S.-ROK Alliance is strong, and vital for safeguarding peace on the Peninsula as well as stability in the broader Indo-Pacific region," the State Department official said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea. "The United States seeks a fair and equitable outcome to the Special Measures Agreement negotiations for both countries that will strengthen and sustain the resilient U.S.-ROK Alliance."

This AFP file photo shows the U.S. Department of State in Washington. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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