South Korea, US sign cost-sharing deal for American troops

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha right and Timothy Betts acting Deputy Assistant Secretary and Senior Advisor for Security Negotiations and Agreements in the U.S. Department of State shake hands for the media before their meeting at Foreig

South Korea signed a deal with the United States on Sunday, February 10, 2019, to raise its contribution to the upkeep of American troops here by 8.2 percent this year.

Seoul contributed around 960 billion won past year - more than 40 percent of the total bill - financing the construction of American military facilities and paying South Korean civilians working on USA bases.

"The United States government realizes that Korea does a lot for our alliance and peace and stability in the region", chief USA negotiator Timothy Betts said Sunday in Seoul.

South Korea and the United States signed a provisional agreement Sunday on the sharing of costs to maintain USA troops here, with South Korea raising its share by 8.2 percent.

"It has been a very long process, but ultimately a very successful process", South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a meeting before another official from the foreign ministry signed the agreement.

South Korea began paying for the US military deployment in the early 1990s, after rebuilding its economy from the devastation of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Upon review from the presidential office and the Legislation Ministry, the tentative pact is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for approval sometime around April, before it can take effect. "But I have no plans, I've never even discussed removing them". "We are very pleased that our consultations resulted in an agreement, and I think that will deepen our cooperation in the alliance". He also has insisted that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation members increase their contributions, and the issue is expected to arise soon in Japan in talks on funding the 50,000 USA troops based there.

South Korea has hosted American troops since the two countries fought together against the communist-backed North in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

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U.S. Forces Korea, the main command, said in its Strategic Digest that Seoul paid about 41 percent of the cost.

But Trump told United States broadcaster CBS last week that he had "no plans" to remove USA troops from South Korea as part of a deal at the upcoming summit, although he admitted "maybe someday" he would withdraw them, adding: "It's very expensive to keep troops there".

"It's very expensive", he said on "Face the Nation" on CBS.

South Korea resisted increased spending but was concerned President Trump might put USA troop withdrawal on the table, or offer to scale back joint military exercises with the South even further, when he meets with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Vietnam later this month - especially if the second Trump-Kim summit paves the way for a formal declaration of peace in the Korean War.

The next round of annual joint military exercises, called Key Resolve/Foal Eagle, is due to be held in the spring, although officials have said they won't announce a date until after the Vietnam summit.

The big U.S. military presence in South Korea is a symbol of the countries' alliance, forged in blood during the war, but also a source of long-running anti-American sentiments.

Late previous year, the U.S. military warned Korean workers on its bases they might be put on leave from mid-April if no deal was agreed. US Reps. Grace Meng and Norma Torres wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday, saying the one-year deal did not sufficiently reflect the importance of the US alliance with South Korea.

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