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US denies reports of seeking 20% troop funding boost from South Korea

The US denied a report that it’s demanding South Korea pay as much as 20 per cent more to host American troops, as funding talks between the two nations continue.

The 10 per cent -20 per cent figure referred to in Korean media is “ungrounded speculation,” a Trump administration official said by email. US negotiators will seek a “fair and equitable” outcome at the next round of talks in early January, the official said.

Last month, US negotiators walked out of a meeting on troop funding in Seoul after South Korea balked at a $5 billion price tag for hosting US troops — a fivefold increase. Citing a diplomatic source it didn’t identify, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported earlier this week that the White House had dropped that demand after receiving assurances Seoul would purchase more American weapons. The increase may now be about 10-20 per cent above the current level of nearly $1 billion, the newspaper said.

The deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement, technically expires at the end of this year. But both sides are likely to agree to some sort of temporary extension as they negotiate, allowing for the continued operations of about 28,500 US military personnel on the peninsula.

The talks with South Korea could affect other countries that host US troops, as the Trump administration is seeking funding increases from other American allies.

Source: Business Standard