The US did not ask South Korea to bear the cost of deploying strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula and nearby regions in the ongoing defense cost sharing negotiations, Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.
“The US did not request sharing of the cost of strategic assets’ deployment in the two SMA negotiations,” a Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying by a local news agency.
Seoul and Washington are currently engaged in Special Measures Agreement negotiations that will determine the amount South Korea will contribute toward the cost of maintaining US Forces Korea.
The two sides have so far held two meetings in this year’s round of negotiations. The third meeting is scheduled to be held in Korea in November.
Strategic assets include long-range bombers, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The US deploys such assets to the Korean Peninsula region in some joint drills with the South. Strategic assets such as the B-1B bomber have been deployed to the region in show-of-force exercises in the past.
At present, there are about 28,000 US military personnel stationed in Korea, and Seoul’s share of maintaining the USFK currently stands at about 1.04 trillion won ($891 million).
Earlier in the day, local daily JoongAng Ilbo reported that the US had demanded $100 million from South Korea to cover the cost of deploying strategic assets, citing multiple unnamed sources.
The daily also claimed the US had hiked the costs of various elements covered in the negotiations by “more than threefold” to justify the demand that Korea’s share be raised to $500 million, citing an unnamed source.
According to reports, the US had pushed to have Seoul cover the costs of deploying strategic assets in the negotiations last year, but the demand was not reflected in the final agreement.
Seoul had argued that covering the cost of such deployments does not conform to the principle of South Korea sharing the cost of maintaining US troops stationed in the country.
The US, however, is seeking a significant increase in Seoul’s share, claiming that maintaining military presence here incurs costs of up to $500 million. In this year’s negotiations, the US is said to be demanding that Seoul cover the costs related to families of US military personnel, and wages of civilians of US nationality working for the USFK.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org