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US, South Korea Meet Again for Talks on Sharing Defense Costs


South Korea's chief negotiator Jeong Eun Bo answers a reporter's question after a meeting with U.S. counterpart James DeHart at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019.
US, South Korea Meet Again for Talks on Sharing Defense Costs
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The United States and South Korea are meeting for the fourth time to reach an agreement on sharing defense costs.

There are about 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea. The country shares a heavily armed border with North Korea. The two sides remain technically at war because the Korean War ended in 1953 without a peace treaty.

The current discussions are to take place Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington.

Jeong Eun-bo is South Korea’s top negotiator. On his arrival near Washington, he expressed hope after the failure of talks earlier.

“I believe we will be able to produce a win-win result if we continue discussions with patience,” Jeong said on December second.

The current cost-sharing agreement will end on December 31. Since 1991, the agreements have been updated every five years, but the current deal covers only one year.

The two sides last reached an agreement in February. South Korea increased its share of defense costs by 8.2 percent to more than $800 million. That amount has been described as about half of the total cost.

A recent study from the government’s Korea Institute for National Unification said that 96 percent of South Koreans oppose paying more for defense cost-sharing.

South Korea also said it agreed to pay 90 percent of the $10.7 billion cost of moving a U.S. military base out of Seoul.

President Donald Trump has been urging South Korea and other allies to pay more toward defense costs since he took office in 2017. Reports say that the U.S. asked South Korea to pay about $5 billion starting next year. The request was made during talks last October in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Some experts say that the U.S. is putting pressure on an important ally.

U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, is seen at a golf course in Seongju, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017.
U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, is seen at a golf course in Seongju, South Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017.

C. Harrison Kim is a North Korea expert and professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He told VOA that he believes South Korea will pay a little more. “If the cost-sharing agreement does not change, South Korea will be forced to buy more weapons from the U.S. – that would undoubtedly happen,” he said.

Kim also told VOA that he thinks: “President Trump is approaching this as a cost-benefit analysis” and is not considering the historical legacy of the U.S. in Korea.

Some experts are unsure if the Trump administration will ease its demands that allies pay more of defense costs.

Leif-Eric Easley is a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. He said in an email that the cost-sharing talks come as North Korea continues to threaten the South. “The U.S. and South Korea would be well advised to quickly and diplomatically resolve their differences on defense cost-sharing to demonstrate the strength of their alliance,” he said.

I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.

Kelly Kasulis reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

approach –v. to take preliminary steps toward accomplishment

patience –n. the quality of being able to wait without becoming upset

cost-benefit analysis –n. a way of studying a problem by comparing the costs or the good results of different solutions

legacy –n. something from the past that is remembered or received by people in the present time

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