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Seoul, Washington initial draft text for new SMA on defence burden-sharing

Seoul and Washington have initialled the draft text for a new, six-year Special Measures Agreement (SMA) on defence burden-sharing.

The announcement was made by the US Department of State during a ‘2+2’ meeting held between the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries in Seoul on 18 March.

The move comes after South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) revealed eight days earlier that Seoul had agreed to a 13.9% increase in its contribution for 2021 to the upkeep of about 28,500 US troops in South Korea: the largest annual rise in almost two decades.

The increase is part of the recently agreed 11th SMA, which will follow the one that expired on 31 December 2019 and is expected to last until the end of 2025.

The MoFA said in a statement that Seoul’s contribution for 2020 will remain at the same level as the previous year (KRW1.038 trillion, or USD918 billion), while the agreed 13.9% increase for this year – which will take South Korea’s contribution to KRW1.18 trillion – will reflect the 7.4% rise in South Korean defence spending in 2020 and a 6.5% increase in payments for South Korean nationals working for US Forces Korea (USFK).

The rate of increase in South Korea’s SMA contributions from 2022 until the end of 2025 will be in line with the country’s defence expenditure increases from the previous year. For instance, South Korea increased its defence budget this year by 5.4%, meaning that this will also be the increase rate for the country’s SMA payments in 2022.

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