The top US negotiator in defense cost-sharing talks with South Korea arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a new round of negotiations this week over the sharing of the cost for the upkeep of American troops here.
Speaking to reporters, James DeHart of the US State Department voiced confidence that with “some hard work,” the allies will reach an agreement that is mutually acceptable and will ultimately strengthen the long-standing alliance.
James DeHart of the US State Department speaks to reporters as he arrives in Incheon Internatinoal Airport on Sunday. (Yonhap)
Earlier this month, DeHart made an unannounced visit to Seoul to meet with journalists and local lawmakers, apparently to learn more about public sentiment here and explain Washington‘s negotiation position.
“I hope you will take (the) frequency of my visits as an indication (of) how important this alliance is to us. I am very confident that with some hard work, we will get to a good agreement,” he told reporters.
On Monday and Tuesday, DeHart and his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Eun-bo, will lead the negotiations over how much Seoul should pay this year and beyond for stationing the 28,500-strong USForces Korea under the Special Measures Agreement, a cost-sharing deal.
Reports said that the US has demanded South Korea pay nearly $5 billion under a new SMA to cover expenditure even for the operations of off-peninsula military assets committed to the defense of South Korea.
Under this year’s SMA, Seoul agreed to pay $870 million.
As he walked out of the airport, DeHart was met by a group of protesters who chanted the slogan, “We won‘t pay, go away.” (Yonhap)