David Stilwell the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs has upped pressure on South Korea to contribute more to defense costs stressing Seoul's capability has grown "exponentially" in recent decades.
Speaking at a seminar in Washington on Monday, Stilwell added that he sees opportunities for further cooperation and the ability to use their capabilities in a cooperative way.
His comments come as South Korea and the U.S. are set to hold a fresh round of negotiations on sharing the cost of stationing American troops on the Korean Peninsula in Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday.
He noted President Trump's remarks, saying "as the security background changes and as Washington's partners become wealthier and more capable of taking care of their own security they have to invest in that as a show of alignment."
However, Seoul is adamant that the cost sharing burden be fair and reasonable.
Arriving in Washington, South Korea's top negotiator highlighted that they can strike a win-win deal based on the common understanding of the alliance they share.
"There must be a reasonable and fair burden-sharing agreement. The most important principle ultimately, is that the negotiations contribute to the alliance and strengthen our combined defense posture."
Jeong also reaffirmed the figure must be within the framework of their cost sharing agreement, under which Seoul shares the costs for Korean civilians hired by the U.S. Forces Korea, the construction of military facilities and other forms of support.
The previous round of talks held in Seoul two weeks ago were cut short with both sides unable to narrow their differences.
South Korea said the U.S. demanded a massive hike, while Washington said Seoul wasn't responsive to its requests.
The U.S. is believed to be demanding Seoul pay five billion U.S. dollars annually a more than five-fold increase from what Seoul agreed to pay under the current deal that expires at the end of December.
Asked if the South Korean team had come with new proposals, Jeong said they have "various alternatives" without elaborating.
He added the allies have been in close communication on the issue since the last round of talks in mid-November.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.