Through the course of negotiations the US and South Korea have significantly reduced financial demands that Washington had made to Seoul to sustain its military presence in the Asian country, newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported citing anonymous sources. Previously the newspaper reported these demands had reached $4.7 billion per year – a sharp rise compared to previous years.
According to the media outlet, the change came after the US Congress approved, and President Donald Trump signed the National Defence Authorization Act for next year, which required keeping US deployments around the world at previous levels. Thus, Washington was deprived of the option to partially pull troops out of Seoul if the country refused to pay the new rates. Chosun Ilbo had reported the withdrawal as possible, while the Pentagon officially denied it.
Still, the defence bill for South Korea will increase in the range of between 10 and 20 per cent, the newspaper reported. The new defence deal will also have "a hefty sweetener" in the form of Seoul's weapons purchases from the US.
"The two sides began narrowing their differences and moved toward a smaller increase in defence cost-sharing", a diplomatic source told Chosun Ilbo.
The new deal is expected to be negotiated by February, the media outlet reported, ensuring that the 28,500 strong US contingency in South Korea would remain for another year.
While US officials have not confirmed the $4.7 billion figure, reported by Chosun Ilbo as the new cost for US protection, Defence Secretary Mark Esper stated that Seoul should increase its burden sharing for the American forces stationed in South Korea on 15 November. Esper noted that South Korea is a wealthy country, and can afford the increase in defence spending.