South Korea's chief negotiator for defense cost-sharing talks says Seoul and Washington continue to expand their scope of understanding, but they still have some differences.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Jeong Eun-bo said they're working on a comprehensive deal and so new variables can come up.
Jeong added that South Korea's contribution to the alliance should be assessed fairly, noting Seoul's purchases of U.S. weapons and its cooperation with Washington on international disputes.
South Korea and the U.S. wrapped up their latest round of negotiations in Washington earlier this week, without making much of a breakthrough.
"In our negotiations, there are areas where we have narrowed our differences, but at times new issues surface. But the two sides understand each other better now as we work towards a final deal."
The two sides have been at odds over the price and scope of their new deal.
Although the U.S. says it has scaled back its proposal, it had initially demanded five billion U.S. dollars a five-fold increase from what Seoul agreed to pay under last year's deal.
The extra costs would cover expenditures for supporting U.S. military families and conducting combined military exercises.
South Korea is adamant that the new figure must be fair and mutually acceptable.
Since 1991, Seoul has shouldered partial costs to pay for South Korean nationals employed by US Forces Korea, the construction of military facilities as well as logistical support.
But the U.S. continues to step up the pressure on South Korea to shoulder a larger burden.
In a rare op-ed Thursday in the Wall Street Journal, by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and defense secretary Mark Esper, they said Seoul can and should pay more.
The officials said that Washington's contributions to Seoul's defense far exceed the cost of U.S. 'boots on the ground' and constitute a far bigger burden for the American taxpayer than meets the eye.
The two secretaries said that better burden-sharing arrangements will benefit both sides, and claimed that over 90 percent of South Korea's contributions go back to the local economy.
"Rather than looking at one part of the op-ed, I see it as the U.S. stressing the need to maintain the firm Seoul-Washington alliance. But because we are in the middle of negotiations, I can't talk about the specifics of South Korea's burden-sharing."
Jeong said that he will work hard to reach a deal at the earliest date possible, given their previous deal expired at the end of last year.
The two sides have yet to set a date for their next round of negotiations.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.