The US and South Korea have reached a deal to boost Seoul’s financial support for America’s military presence in the country, in a bid to resolve a big source of friction in the alliance during Donald Trump’s presidency.
The tentative pact still has to be finalised and signed but was reached in principle on Sunday, according to officials involved in the talks.
The state department said it reflected the Biden administration’s “commitment to reinvigorating and modernising our democratic alliances around the world”.
“This proposed agreement, containing a negotiated meaningful increase in host nation support contributions from the Republic of Korea, reaffirms that the US-Republic of Korea Alliance is the linchpin of peace, security and prosperity for north-east Asia and a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the state department said.
The deal follows a tense impasse under the Trump administration which had strained ties between Washington and Seoul.
The former president, who demanded that South Korea quintuple the amount it paid for hosting US troops, rebuked allies for not spending more on defence and floated the idea of potentially removing troops from the Asian country despite the threats posed by China’s expanding military.
The Trump administration’s refusal to budge in the negotiations caused concern among other longstanding US defence partners, including Japan and Nato countries, which have similar defence cost-sharing arrangements with the US.
The cost sharing deal, the Special Measures Agreement, was renegotiated every five years from 1991 to 2018.
In 2019, only a single-year arrangement was reached after the two sides failed to agree on a way to meet Trump’s demands. An ad hoc arrangement was reached to cover the final period of the Trump presidency and avoid disruptions to US bases in South Korea.