South Korea signs new deal to pay U.S. more for troop presence

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 stand for the media before their meeting at Foreign Mini

South Korea signs new deal to pay U.S. more for troop presence

The nationwide survey of 501 South Koreans found about 62.5 percent of respondents optimistic about the prospects for settling "the North Korean nuclear problem", while 35.2 percent said the summit would weaken the U.S.

The ROK leader said the second DPRK-U.S. summit would be a step forward and be a critical turning point in more concretely and visibly advancing the peninsula's complete denuclearization, new DPRK-U.S. relations, and a peace regime on the peninsula, all of which were agreed to at the first DPRK-U.S. summit. Past agreements lasted five years, Reuters notes, and the South Korean side was hoping to extend the 2019 deal at least three years.

Trump has complained that maintaining troops in South Korea is too expensive and said in the past that he would like to bring them home.

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.

Some conservatives in South Korea voiced concerns over a weakening alliance with the United States amid a stalemate in negotiations with North Korea to deprive it of its nuclear weapons. "But it's an important part and we are pleased that our consultations resulted in an agreement that I think will strengthen transparency and strengthen and deepen our cooperation in the alliance".

The new arrangement, pending ratification by the South Korean parliament in April, would increase Seoul's share of the cost by a little over 8 percent to $924 million in USA dollars. The two sides had also difficulty on the final amount, as the Trump administration reportedly demanded an annual sum of around one billion dollars when the negotiations were close to an end late past year.

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Trump, who has been a vocal critic of other nations failing to contribute for USA military presence around the world, highlighted the cost of keeping troops in South Korea during an interview earlier this month. They said Trump might use the failed military cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to pull back some of US troops in South Korea, as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. During his election campaign, Trump suggested he could pull back troops from South Korea and Japan unless they took on greater a share of the financial burdens of supporting USA soldiers deployed there.

The provisional pact was agreed to after Seoul reportedly accepted the U.S.'s demand of fixing a one-year contract from the previous five-year one while Washington agreed to adjust the South's contributions to around 1 trillion won. Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the US had called for a sharp increase in South Korean spending but didn't elaborate.

Their first summit in Singapore last June resulted in Kim's vague commitment to "complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula", a term that his propaganda machine previously used when it argued it would only denuclearise after the United States withdraws its troops from South Korea.

Trump's top envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, visited Pyongyang last week to work out details of the upcoming summit.

About 28,500 USA troops are stationed in South Korea, where the United States has maintained a military presence since the 1950-53 Korean War. 70 percent of South Korea's support covers the salaries of 8.700 South Koreans who provide administrative and technical services for the 28,500 American troops stationed in their country.

"South Korea has to think about the cost involved in keeping the deterrence at the level they would like, while the threat is clearly present", James Kim, worldwide relations expert at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told Sputnik Monday.

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