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Four U.S. bases returned to S. Korea on condition that talks on decontamination costs continue Updated: 2019-12-11 14:49:29 KST

There have been countless delays in returning to South Korean control installations and bases used by American forces stationed on the peninsula.
But now the South Korean government says there's been progress in that front.
For the latest Kim Ji-yeon joins us.
Ji-yeon,



Four U.S. bases that South Korea requested be returned in August, have been returned to South Korea as of 2PM today.
Those four bases are Camps Eagle and Long in Wonju, Camp Market in Bupyeong and Camp Hovey in Dongducheon the Shea Range.
Their return had been delayed due to a disagreement between South Korea and the U.S. in determining which side is responsible for the costs of decontaminating polluted parts of the bases.
The two sides agreed at the 200th joint committee meeting of the Status of Forces Agreement at Camp Humphreys the bases be returned on the condition that they continue consultations on responsibilities for base decontamination.
As of now, the government estimates the costs to cleanse the four bases is more than 92-million U.S. dollars but it added that the estimate is subject to change once they conduct detailed surveys of the bases.
The lion's share of the costs is due to dioxin pollution of Camp Market.
For now, it looks though the costs are to be shouldered by the South Korean government unless it makes progress in the negotiating talks with the U.S.
According to a briefing held by the Office for Government Policy Coordination along with the defense, foreign affairs and environment ministries that just ended half an hour ago there has been progress in the negotiations in that the U.S. has agreed to discuss about which country is to pay for the costs something that was a non-negotiable subject for the past decade.
Up until now, the U.S. has cited its KISE principle which is an acronym for the Known Imminent Substantial Endangerment to Human Health a standard the Korean side had to prove in order for the U.S. to consider paying the costs associated with the return of U.S. bases.
The government says the part about the pollution costs has not been detailed in the Status of Forces Agreement the SOFA agreement and now the U.S. has positively responded to such discussions given the common understanding that the prompt return of the bases is imperative to public health and delaying the bases' return further could endanger the livelihoods of the community.
The officials at the briefing stated today's talks were not impacted by the defense cost-sharing talks between South Korea and the U.S.
Concerning the return of the Yongsan Garrison the officials said the return process has been initiated as some of the U.S. bases are being moved to Camp Humphreys, a U.S. military complex in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul.
Further details on when the process is to be complete were not relayed in today's briefing.
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