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Korea, US sign W1.04 tril. cost-sharing deal for USFK

Korea, US sign W1.04 tril. cost-sharing deal for USFK

But US President Donald Trump has repeatedly complained about the expense of keeping American forces on the peninsula, with Washington reportedly asking Seoul to double its contribution toward costs.

Seoul's negotiator, Chang Won-sam, and his United States counterpart, Timothy Betts, met in Seoul to ink the contract.

The new deal must still be approved by South Korea's parliament, but it would boost this year's contribution to about 1.04 trillion won (US$924 million), Seoul's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Seoul said Sunday it agreed to hike its payment for maintaining American troops on its soil, settling a dispute with its longtime ally ahead of a second summit between the USA and North Korea. The U.S. originally asked Seoul to pay about $1 billion.

Chang Won-sam (right), South Korea's delegate to defense cost talks with the United States, exchanges a letter of accord with his counterpart Timothy Betts in a signing ceremony in Seoul on Sunday.

The provisional contract, known as the Special Measures Agreement, was inked almost six weeks after the previous five-year accord expired.

The renewal of the Special Measures Agreement between the allies comes after the expiration of the previous deal December 31.

Timothy Betts (L), acting deputy assistant secretary and senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements in the U.S. Department of State and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha during their meeting at Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, on February 10, 2019.

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About 20 anti-U.S. activists rallied near the Foreign Ministry building in Seoul on Sunday, chanting slogans like "No more money for US troops".

"The United States government realises that South Korea does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", said Betts. "We are very pleased that our consultations resulted in an agreement, and I think that will deepen our cooperation in the alliance". Also, the deal was originally going to be for five years, . but the US insisted on just one year.

Last month, a senior South Korean ruling party legislator said negotiations were deadlocked after the U.S. made a "sudden, unacceptable" demand that Seoul pay more than 1.4 trillion won ($1.2bn) per year. A five-year 2014 deal that covered South Korea's payment last year expired at the end of 2018.

The deal, which involves the spending of South Korean taxpayer money, requires parliamentary approval in South Korea, but not in the United States, according to Seoul's Foreign Ministry.

USA lawmakers had also urged the U.S. to seek a longer-term cost-sharing agreement for the stationing of troops here.

"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. But Seoul continued to reject that condition, saying it was not part of the deal's goal, and the U.S. side retracted the proposal.

Seoul sent $830 million to Washington in 2018. The SMA will take effect after National Assembly ratifies it around April.

South Korea resisted increased spending but was concerned President Trump might put US 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.

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