South Korea and the U.S. have finally reached an agreement on this year's defense cost sharing deal, with Seoul's financial contribution for the stationing of some 28-thousand American troops on the Korean Peninsula at 9-hundred-24 million U.S. dollars.
That's 8.two percent more than Seoul contributed last year, reflecting a rise in South Korea's defense budget this year.
The signing ceremony for the deal was held Sunday afternoon at the foreign ministry in Seoul by both countries' negotiators, Chang Won-sam and Timothy Betts.
Washington's top negotiator, Betts, also met with South Korea's Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, before signing the agreement.
In their meeting, Kang said the allies were able to close the gap on the size of South Korea's contribution thanks to goodwill and trust.
She also said she was glad that the protracted negotiations ended with a successful result.
Betts also said the U.S. is pleased with the results, acknowledging Seoul's contribution to the alliance.
From last March, the allies had ten rounds of talks on the issue and dozens of working-level consultations.
In those, the U.S. had asked South Korea to pay the costs of operating strategic assets, but Seoul said those do not fall under the original scope of the allies cost-sharing agreements, which are meant mainly to pay for the salaries of South Koreans working at U.S. military bases in the country and costs related to facility construction and logistics.
So the costs of strategic asset operations were not included in the final deal.
The two sides had also difficulty on the final amount, as the Trump administration reportedly demanded an annual sum of around one billion dollars when the negotiations were close to an end late last year.
Also, the deal was originally going to be for five years,.. but the U.S. insisted on just one year.
In the end, they struck a one-year deal with no automatic extension.
But a foreign ministry official in Seoul said the deal could be extended if the two sides agree.
The signed agreement is called "preliminary" as of now since it needs to be approved by South Korea's National Assembly.
The U.S. does not require approval from Congress.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.