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US, South Korea Discuss Status of Forces Agreement Before Trump Inauguration

© AFP 2021 / YONHAPUS Marines move for a joint military drill by US and South Korea in the southeastern port of Pohang on March 7, 2016
US Marines move for a joint military drill by US and South Korea in the southeastern port of Pohang on March 7, 2016 - Sputnik International
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On Tuesday, government officials from Seoul and Washington met to discuss the ongoing deployment of nearly 30,000 American soldiers in South Korea as well as the changes to the arrangement that President-elect Donald Trump may seek.

Air Force Deputy commander of US Forces-Korea  Lt. Gen. Thomas Bergeson, who is also deputy commander of the United Nations Korean Command, led the American contingent, while the South Korean group was headed by Yeo Seung-bae, the Foreign Ministry’s director-general for North America. The gathering in Seoul marks the first time in almost a year that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) joint committee has met. 

A visitor tour near the screen showing an image of a handshake by the U.S. and South Korean flags at the two countries' security alliance exhibition hall at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 - Sputnik International
South Korea Could Boost Defense Spending on Request of US

While campaigning, Trump voiced frustration that NATO allies, along with Seoul and Tokyo, are not paying enough for American forces to be stationed in the their regions, expressing his intention to "have allies, including South Korea, pay more for American troops stationed in those countries."

South Korean News Agency Yonhap quoted one official from the Foreign Ministry in Seoul saying that, "Both sides agreed to continue cooperation to manage various SOFA issues so that the US can have a stable environment for their forces here, while South Korea can minimize the discomfort to their people."

The meeting comes at an uneasy time for South Korea, as threats from Pyongyang continue to loom and internal issues that have led many to call for President Park Geun-hye to resign.

South Korea's new President Park Geun-hye (C) leaves after her inauguration at the parliament in Seoul, South Korea February 25, 2013. - Sputnik International
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Tens of thousands of South Koreans marched to demand Park’s resignation early in November, with one 66-year-old telling The Guardian that the South Korean president "needs to step down."

Asian Institute for Policy Studies researcher Woo Jung-yeop was quoted saying, "it will become difficult to predict policy direction" under a Trump Presidency.

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