S. Korea-US defence cost talks collapse over $6.8b demand, Latest World News - The New Paper

S. Korea-US defence cost talks collapse over $6.8b demand

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SEOUL: South Korean and US officials broke off talks yesterday aimed at settling the cost burden for Seoul of hosting the US military, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, amid a public backlash over a US$5 billion (S$6.8 billion) US demand for the bill.

The breakdown in talks was a sharp and rare public disagreement in the 66-year alliance, with each side suggesting the other was not prepared to come to a fair and reasonable compromise on sharing the costs for hosting 28,500 US troops as a deterrent to North Korea.

"Our position is that it should be within the mutually acceptable Special Measures Agreement framework that has been agreed upon by South Korea and the US for the past 28 years," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said, referring to the cost-sharing deal's official name.

The top US negotiator, Mr James DeHart, said the Americans cut short the talks to "give the Korean side some time to reconsider and I hope to put forward new proposals".

"Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean negotiating team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing," Mr DeHart told a briefing.

Negotiators left the table after only about one hour of discussions that were scheduled to continue throughout the day, South Korean media reported, citing sources.

South Koreansaid US officials were seeking up to US$5 billion a year, more than five times the 1.04 trillion won (S$1.2 billion) Seoul agreed to pay this year.

US officials have not publicly confirmed the number, but Mr Trump previously said the US military presence in and around South Korea was "US$5 billion worth of protection". - REUTERS