US walks out of South Korea defense cost sharing talks

World | 19 Nov 2019 3:59 pm

Defense cost-sharing talks between South Korea and the United States were abruptly cut short today as the U.S. negotiators walked out of the meeting and accused Seoul of making proposals falling short of "fair and equitable burden sharing."

The unexpected ending underlined wide differences between the two sides after Washington's reported demand for a fivefold increase in Seoul's sharing of the cost of the upkeep of about 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea, Yonhap reports.

The latest round of negotiations, which began yesterday, was supposed to last through today. But the second day of talks ended in about an hour as the U.S. negotiators left the meeting, South Korean officials said.

"Unfortunately, the proposals that were put forward by the Korean team were not responsive to our request for fair and equitable burden sharing," James DeHart of the U.S. State Department told local media shortly after the talks ended.

"As a result, we cut short our participation in the talks today in order to give the Korean side some time to reconsider and, I hope, to put forward new proposals that would enable both sides to work towards a mutually acceptable agreement," he said. "We look forward to resuming our negotiations when the Korean side is ready to work on the basis of partnership on the basis of mutual trust."

Confirming that the two sides remain far apart, South Korea's chief negotiator Jeong Eun Bo vowed to work "with patience" and make efforts to produce a deal that is "mutually acceptable."

"In principle, we have declared a burden sharing that is mutually viable. However, it is true that there is a significant difference between the overall proposal from the United States and our position in principle," he told a press briefing.

"We will continue to strive with patience to make sure the sharing comes in mutually acceptable terms."

When asked by reporters which side first suggested ending the talks, Jeong said, "It was the U.S. that walked out of the talks."

The South's foreign ministry explained earlier that the U.S. called for a drastic increase in Seoul's share.



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