U.S. and South Korea Sign Deal on Shared Defense Costs Express News

SEOUL, South Korea — Washington and Seoul on Sunday signed an agreement on how to share the cost of the American military presence in South Korea, resolving a dispute between the allies before President Trump’s meeting this month with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

But the one-year deal only temporarily addresses an issue that has become particularly contentious under Mr. Trump, who has insisted that South Korea and other allies shoulder more of the cost of maintaining American bases on their soil.

Under the new deal, which still requires approval from the South Korean Parliament, Seoul will contribute about 1.04 trillion won, or $925 million, this year to help cover the expense of stationing 28,500 American troops in South Korea. That is an 8.2 percent increase from last year, when South Korea paid 960 billion won, roughly half the total cost.

But unlike the previous five-year deal, which expired on Dec. 31, the new agreement will cover this year only. The allies will have to resume negotiations within months over how to share next year’s costs, giving the United States a chance to press for a far bigger South Korean contribution.

The South’s president, Moon Jae-in, has stressed the importance of the military alliance with Washington, insisting that its fate should not be up for discussion in the talks between the North and the United States.

In recent weeks, conservative South Korean commentators have said it is worth paying more for American troops to keep Mr. Trump from withdrawing them. But progressives, including members of Mr. Moon’s governing party, are sensitive to any impression that the Americans are bullying their country.

“Trump is not the United States,” Bae Myung-bok, a senior columnist for the daily JoongAng Ilbo, wrote last month, urging South Korea not to give in to Washington’s demands.

The United States military command was established in 1957, when South Korea was a largely agrarian country. As it transformed into a global trading power, South Korea’s contribution to covering the cost of American troops has increased along with its defense budget.

Not counted as part of South Korea’s contribution to the shared defense costs are large tracts of land that it supplies rent-free for American military bases. South Korea has also taken on more than 90 percent of the $11 billion cost of expanding Camp Humphreys, south of Seoul, into the largest American military base outside the continental United States.

South Korea is also one of the biggest buyers of American weapons. It spends 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, more than any European ally of the United States.

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