Negotiations between South Korea and the U.S. on sharing the cost of stationing American troops on the Korean Peninsula came to an abrupt close with the two sides far apart on the issue.
Just about an hour into the talks on Tuesday morning, Seoul's foreign ministry announced that the two-day talks were unable to proceed as initially planned.
South Korea's chief negotiator for the talks, Jeong Eun-bo, later told reporters that the U.S. was trying to drastically raise Seoul's share and that Washington walked out of the negotiations first.
"The U.S. side wants to drastically raise South Korea's share by establishing new articles under the Special Measures Agreement, while Seoul's stance is that the increase should be within a range that is mutually acceptable under the framework of the cost-sharing deal that the two sides have agreed on for the past 28 years. We will be patient and do our best to make sure costs are shared on mutually acceptable terms."
Since 1991, South Korea has shared defense costs with the U.S. under the Special Measures Agreement.
Reports say that Washington has been demanding that Seoul pay five billion U.S. dollars annually -- which is more than five times the amount Seoul agreed to pay under the current deal that expires at the end of 2019.
The U.S. has claimed that South Korea is a wealthy country that can and should pay more.
After the talks fell through, Washington's chief negotiator James DeHart said in a hastily arranged press conference that Seoul wasn't responsive to their requests.
"The proposals that were put forward by the Korean team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden-sharing. As a result, we cut short our participation in the talks today in order to give the Korean side some time to reconsider and I hope to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement in the spirit of our great alliance."
While South Korea said that the next round of talks has been scheduled, some readjustments may be needed given Tuesday's unprecedented development.
Although it remains to be seen if they are able to ink a deal before the year's end, Seoul and Washington did make it possible to extend the current agreement in preparation for a possible lapse.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.