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Update: Seoul, Washington reach tentative defence cost-sharing deal

Seoul and Washington have reached a tentative deal on sharing the costs of keeping about 28,500 US troops in South Korea.

”In the first in-person meeting to be held in almost a year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, negotiators from South Korea and the United States held talks on the 11th South Korea-US Special Measures Agreement (SMA) based on their discussions so far, and, as a result, reached an agreement in principle,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Seoul announced on 8 March.

The two sides now plan to finalise an internal review process before signing the deal, said the MND without providing further details.

Referring to the terms of the renegotiated SMA, the US State Department’s Bureau of Political Military-Affairs tweeted that they include, “an increase in RoK [Republic of Korea] support” for the presence of US forces in South Korea.

No details were provided as to how much South Korea’s contribution will increase by, but the State Department was quoted as referring to a “meaningful” increase, adding that the move “will strengthen our alliance and our shared defence”. State Department spokesperson Ned Price was later quoted as saying that the new agreement will be valid for six years.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the two sides are expected to officially sign the new SMA, which will follow the one that lapsed 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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