| South Korea and the United States are reportedly in the process of initialing an agreement on sharing the expenses for keeping U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula, starting this year. Seoul`s share is said to be a little lower than 1 trillion won (942.5 million U.S. dollars) that Washington requested, but it is expected to amount to about 100 billion won (94.3 million dollars) more than last year`s 869.5 billion won (819.5 million dollars) and thus will likely face difficulties in winning parliamentary approval.
"The two sides have considerably narrowed differences as a result of the 10th negotiation held on Thursday and Friday in Seoul," a South Korean government official said. "The result of the negotiations will likely be announced Sunday at the earliest."
The South Korean government and the ruling Saenuri Party decided in July last year to seek to cut the total amount of Seoul`s share for 2014, while the U.S. demanded that Seoul cover more than 1 trillion won (942.5 million dollars). The two sides then narrowed their differences to slightly less than 1 trillion won for a five-year agreement. A senior South Korean official said that media reports on the goal of reducing the total amount were "false." He added that it was "inevitable" to increase the amount and that at issue was how much increase Seoul would accept.
Seoul once considered Japan`s method in which the U.S. military makes claims by items and Japan covers the whole amounts after verifying them. However, Seoul reportedly concluded that such a way was not appropriate for South Korea which faces threats from the North, as it would be difficult for Seoul to rebut the U.S. military`s cost claims. Therefore, the South decided to maintain the current way of setting aside a total annual amount to be paid to the U.S., while focusing on improving the system for verifying the validity of the total amount. The two sides also discussed ways to enhance the transparency in unused amounts and balanced carried over.
The South Korean government plans to report the results of the latest negotiations and sign an agreement on Sunday at the earliest, before seeking parliamentary approval.