South Korea and the U.S. are preparing to begin negotiations on their defense cost-sharing pact, amid pressure from President Donald Trump to increase contributions from allies.
They are gearing up to begin talks over the Special Measures Agreement as early as late September, as the current one-year deal is set to expire on December 31st.
While representatives from the foreign ministry or defense ministry usually take part in the negotiations on Seoul's side, this time personnel from the finance ministry could lead the negotiations.
Such a move is seen to take into account the increased burden on the country's budget as under this year's agreement, South Korea agreed to pay over 860 million U.S. dollars, an increase of 8.2 percent from the previous year.
Even before launching the negotiations, President Trump is saying that allies need to pay more for costs related to the presence of U.S. soldiers.
Washington reportedly asked Seoul to significantly increase its share of the total costs, which are around 5 billion dollars per year.
"The 5 billion dollars includes the cost of the U.S. personnel stationed in Seoul. But as the personnel cost is not included in the Special Measures Agreement, Seoul should first review what is actually covered by the deal."
With the talks to begin soon, many local pundits believe that the Trump administration may up the pressure on Seoul, tying the issue to denuclearization talks.
The talks look to be tough on Seoul, especially as the bilateral relations between the two allies are not so rosy at the moment with South Korea's withdrawal of the intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.
Kim Hyo-sun, Arirang News.