Seoul: U.S., South Korea agree to ‘Alliance Dialogue’ on defense costs

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Sept. 11 (UPI) — U.S. and South Korean diplomats agreed to form a new working-level dialogue to address cooperation on U.S. troops on the peninsula, according to South Korea’s vice foreign minister, amid an impasse over defense costs.

The group would address the Special Measures Agreement in a separate forum from the working-level group on North Korea, South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo reported Friday.

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The report comes after South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun in Washington on Thursday. The “Alliance Dialogue” would make room for “quick and constant consultation” between the two sides, according to Yonhap.

Following the meeting with Biegun, Choi told reporters in Washington there was a frank and open exchange of opinions regarding defense burden sharing. Choi said he requested a “fair” sharing of the defense costs.

The Trump administration has demanded Seoul pay five times more than its current annual contributions of about $900 million. Negotiations have ceased since South Korea has offered to increase its share by no more than $1.3 billion, according to Hankook Ilbo.

Choi also said he received confirmation that President Donald Trump‘s invitation to President Moon Jae-in to join the expanded G7 summit this year remains in effect. In April, Trump had thanked Moon for sending South Korean COVID-19 testing kits to the United States. The details of the G7 meeting have been postponed due to the pandemic.

Seoul and Washington also agreed to work toward stabilizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula before and after the U.S. presidential election in November, and to cooperate on the resumption of U.S.-North Korea and inter-Korea dialogues.

North Korea is expected to showcase its military capabilities in October on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers’ Party, and U.S. spy planes continue to survey the peninsula.

The U.S. Artemis CL-600, a reconnaissance plane, conducted operations over South Korea on Thursday at an altitude of 38,000 feet, according to flight data published by online flight tracker Aircraft Spots. The flight comes after U.S. spy plane Cobra Ball flew near northeast China earlier this week.