S. Korean negotiator notes 'issues' but says will work to conclude SMA talks soon

변덕근 / 기사승인 : 2021-03-05 05:04:09
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S Korea-US cost-sharing
▲ Amb. Jeong Eun-bo, South Korea's top negotiator in talks with the United States to renew their Special Measures Agreement, speaks to reporters after arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on March 4, 2021. (Yonhap)

S Korea-US cost-sharing

S. Korean negotiator notes 'issues' but says will work to conclude SMA talks soon

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will work to quickly conclude its prolonged negotiations with the United States to set Seoul's share of the cost in maintaining U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula, although some issues remain, Seoul's chief negotiator said Thursday.

Amb. Jeong Eun-bo also said the sides are working closely to reach a fair deal.

"(There) are many issues and so we plan to resolve them as much as possible through a face-to-face meeting," Jeong said.

He will hold talks with his U.S. counterpart, Donna Welton, on Friday.

The meeting will mark the ninth round of negotiations to renew the countries' Special Measures Agreement, but the first in-person talks since President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20. Jeong and Welton last spoke last month via a video link.

The South Korean negotiator refused to identify the remaining issues, only saying SMA negotiations often have to consider special circumstances.

"(The countries) renew detailed SMA every five years or three years and so discuss various issues that surface in the process of implementing the agreement to reflect such issues," he told reporters after arriving in Washington.

The allied countries launched their negotiations before the last SMA expired at the end of 2019, but have been unable to reach an agreement.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump had initially demanded Seoul to pay US$5 billion a year for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea, more than five times the $870 million South Korea paid in 2019 under the last SMA.

The countries negotiators had agreed on a 13 percent increase from the 2019 amount but Trump had rejected the deal.

Jeong's trip to the U.S. is widely believe to signal the conclusion of the drawn-out negotiations in the near future.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department has confirmed that the countries are "very close" to a deal, when asked earlier by Yonhap News Agency.

"From a perspective of principles, I will work to remove most of the remaining issues," Jeong said.


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