SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States and South Korea have not agreed on a larger South Korean share of the cost of maintaining US forces, a civil servant said Friday when the US military warned Korean workers they could Employees are left if no deal is made.
FILE PHOTO: US Army soldiers participate in a US-South Korean river crossing near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Yeoncheon, South Korea, on April 8, 201
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed out that South Korea should put more pressure on more than 28,500 US troops in South Korea, where the US has been stationed since the 1950/53 Korean War.
High-level officials from both sides held three-day talks Tuesday in Seoul to negotiate an agreement to replace the 2014 contract expiring this year. South Korea has to pay about 960 billion won this year (850 million USD).
Despite ten rounds of negotiations since March, both sides struggled to reach an agreement after the United States demanded a significant increase, South Korean officials said.
"We agreed on almost all the elements, but could not finalize them because of differences in the overall scope of the deal," a senior South Korean foreign minister told reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The United States has initially urged South Korea to increase its share of the burden to around $ 1.2 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unidentified sources.
South Korean officials have not publicly acknowledged a dollar amount, and US forces Korea did not have an immediate opinion.
South Korean officials said the United States had called for South Korea to mobilize equipment such as bombers, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and submarines during joint military exercises.
Trump announced that he would stop the exercises in June following a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as they were very expensive and paid mainly by his country.
Since then, several smaller joint exercises have been held, while the main ones have been interrupted as part of efforts to speed up negotiations to end North Korea's nuclear program.
The South Korean official said it is unlikely that both sides will meet again this year, raising the risk of a funding gap.
Last month, US forces warned Korea against South Korean workers. Some of them would have to "break up" or take a vacation from mid-April if a deal could not be reached.
Around 70 percent of the South Korean contribution covers the salaries of approximately 8,700 employees providing administrative, technical and other services to the US military.
"We strive to minimize the negative impact that can impact employees," the ministerial official said.
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; additional reporting by Josh Smith; Edit by Robert Birsel