South Korea, U.S. sign new cost-sharing deal for US troops

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 shake hands for the media before their meeting at Foreig

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 shake hands for the media before their meeting at Foreig

South Korea and the United States struck a new deal Sunday on how much Seoul should pay for the U.S. military presence on its soil, after previous rounds of failed negotiations caused worries about their decades-long alliance.

Last year, South Korea provided about 960 billion won, roughly 40 per cent of the cost of the deployment of 28,500 USA soldiers whose presence is meant to deter aggression from North Korea.

South Korea has signed a new deal with the United States on how much Seoul should pay for the USA military presence on its soil after a previous deal lapsed amid President Donald Trump's call for Seoul to pay more.

Soldiers take pictures from a truck as U.S. President Donald Trump arrives via helicopter at Camp Humphreys, South Korea November 7, 2017.

"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 initialed the agreement. The ministry said the US assured South Korea that it is committed to the alliance and has no plans to adjust the number of its troops in South Korea.

About 70 percent of South Korea's contribution covers the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean employees who provide administrative, technical and other services for the USA military. The big US 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.

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

"The United States government realizes that South Korea (the ROK) does a lot for our alliance and for peace and stability in this region", he said.

The allies struggled to reach a breakthrough despite 10 rounds of talks since March, amid Trump's repeated calls for a sharp increase in South Korea's contribution. A five-year 2014 deal that covered South Korea's payment last year expired at the end of 2018.

U.S. State Department senior adviser for security negotiations and agreements, Timothy Betts, met Kang before signing the agreement on behalf of the United States, and told reporters the money represented a small but important part of the ROK's support for the alliance.

But both sides worked to hammer out a deal to minimize the impact of the lapse on ROK workers on US military bases, and focus on nuclear talks ahead of a second summit between Trump and leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un at the end of February, Seoul officials said.

South Korean media earlier reported that Trump demanded South Korea double its spending for the US military deployment, before his government eventually asked for 1.13 trillion won ($1 billion). Seoul's Foreign Ministry said the USA had called for a sharp increase in South Korean spending but didn't elaborate.

Trump announced last week that he will sit down with Kim for a second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in late February.

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.

About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, where the United States has maintained a military presence since the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korean officials have said they had sought to limit its burden to $1 trillion won and make the accord valid for at least three years.

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