© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: American and South Korean flags in Yongin South Korea
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – South Korea will increase its contribution to the cost of US forces stationed in the country under an agreement reached with the United States, the State Department said on Sunday.
The deal reflects the "commitment of the Biden government to revitalize and modernize our democratic alliances around the Word to promote our common security and prosperity," a State Department official said.
The proposed six-year "Special Measures Agreement" will replace the previous agreement, which expired in late 2019, and remove a major stimulus in US-South Korea relations.
The representative said the proposed agreement included a "negotiated significant increase in host country grants" but did not provide any further details.
Negotiations stalled after former U.S. President Donald Trump turned down Seoul's offer to pay 13% more for a total of around $ 1 billion a year, and even asked for $ 5 billion. Seoul currently pays Washington about $ 920 million a year.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the deal in principle on Sunday, said the deal has yet to be approved by South Korean lawmakers.
The State Department said the two countries are now working on the final steps to finalize the agreement for signature.
South Korea's chief ambassador, Jeong Eun-bo, told reporters on Thursday that his country wanted to settle the remaining differences and sign an agreement with Washington to share the cost of deploying 28,500 American troops.
Jeong made the comment when he came to Washington for the first personal talks with US envoy Donna Welton since President Joe Biden's administration took office in January. They held their first video conference last month.
After the last pact expired, around 4,000 South Koreans who worked for the U.S. military were put on unpaid leave, prompting the two countries to seek an emergency agreement to get them back to work.
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