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South Korea agrees to a 13.9% increase in SMA contributions for 2021

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) revealed on 10 March that Seoul has agreed to a 13.9% increase in its contribution to the upkeep of about 28,500 US troops in the country this year: the largest annual rise in almost two decades.

The increase is part of the recently agreed 11th South Korea-US Special Measures Agreement, which is expected to be signed “as soon as possible” and will last until the end of 2025.

The MoFA said in a statement that Seoul’s contribution for 2020 will remain at the 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 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.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the two sides are expected to officially sign the new SMA, which will follow the one that expired on 31 December 2019, during a visit to Seoul by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that is expected to take place later in March.

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