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U.S. And S.Korea Struggle Over Maintenance Cost of U.S. Troops

The U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment, citing “confidential diplomatic discussions.”

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South Korea
North Korean army soldiers watch the south side while South Korean, left, and U.S. Army soldiers stand guard at the truce villages of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea, July 27, 2014. VOA

The United States and South Korea are struggling to narrow differences over sharing the cost of maintaining U.S. troops after a U.S. demand for a 50 percent increase in the South’s contribution, a South Korean lawmaker said Tuesday.

Despite 10 rounds of talks since March, the allies have failed to strike an accord to replace a 2014 deal that expired last year, which requires South Korea to pay about 960 billion won ($848 million) a year for keeping some 28,500 U.S. troops there.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that South Korea, where the United States has stationed soldiers since the 1950-53 Korean War, should bear more of the cost. The U.S. military has warned Korean workers on its bases they might be put on leave from mid-April if no deal is reached.

South Korea
U.S. and South Korean soldiers salute during a change of command and responsibility ceremony at Yongsan Garrison, a U.S. military base, in Seoul, South Korea, Aug. 11, 2017. VOA

Sudden, higher US demand

At their last meeting, in December, the United States made a “sudden, unacceptable” demand that South Korea pay more than 1.4 trillion won per year, about 1.5 times its current contribution, according to Hong Young-pyo, a senior ruling party legislator.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha briefed a group of lawmakers on the talks Monday. Any deal is subject to parliamentary approval.

“The negotiations were deadlocked,” Hong told a meeting with lawmakers. “The U.S. side suddenly made a proposal at the last stage which was difficult for us to accept.”

A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Seoul declined to comment.

No further meetings scheduled

When asked about the U.S. demand Monday, Kang declined to specify numbers but said there was a “very big difference” in the positions between the two countries.

South Korea
A U.S. Army captain learns a few Korean terms from two Korean Army soldiers during the 2016 Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises in Yongin, South Korea, Aug. 25, 2016. VOA

“We’ll work to reach an agreement that’s reasonable, affordable and explainable to the National Assembly and the people,” Kang told reporters.
Kang Seok-ho, another lawmaker who attended the foreign minister’s briefing, said the government’s stance was not to pay more than 1 trillion won a year and an agreement should be valid for five years, not one year as reportedly sought by the United States.

With another meeting not scheduled, the stalemate raises concerns about the funding gap and the posture of the 70-year alliance amid signs of a rift over North Korea policy.

About 70 percent of South Korea’s contribution covers the salaries of some 8,700 South Korean employees who provide administrative, technical and other services for the U.S. military.

Exercises suspended

Trump announced a halt to joint exercises with South Korea in June, after a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying they were very expensive and paid for mostly by the U.S.

Major joint exercises have since been suspended, which Washington said would expedite talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear program, though some small-scale exercises have continued.

Korea
North Korean army soldiers are greeted by South Korean army soldiers, wearing helmets, as they cross the Military Demarcation Line inside the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to inspect the dismantled South Korean guard post in Cheorwon. VOA

U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris met South Korea’s national security advisor Chung Eui-yong late last month to urge a swift agreement, warning that the United States may consider implementing the defense treaty “in a different way,” South Korea’s Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified diplomatic source.

South Korea’s foreign ministry confirmed Harris had visited Chung but declined to give details.

Also Read: The United States Of America Starts Pulling Out Troops From Syria

The U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment, citing “confidential diplomatic discussions.”

North Korean state media has recently increased complaints about South Korea’s military ties to the United States, but South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, has said reducing U.S. military commitments would be an unlikely option for Washington. (VOA)

Next Story

South Korea to Set up the World’s First 5G Autonomous Car Driving Test Bed

While the country already has an operational test bed for autonomous cars in Hwaseong, some 60 kilometers south of the capital city, it is not open to the public, and is restricted for vehicle testing and certifications

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self-driving car
In this Dec. 13, 2016, file photo, a skylight is reflected in the rear window of a Waymo driverless car during a Google event in San Francisco. Google's robotic car spin-off Waymo is poised to become the first to test fully driverless vehicles on California. VOA

South Korea on Thursday said it will set up the world’s first 5G-based autonomous car driving test bed in the capital city as it strives to take the lead in future mobility technology.

The Sangam test bed in western Seoul, to officially open Saturday, will have all the necessary infrastructure, such as a recharging station for electric vehicles (EVs), 3-D detailed maps of the road and a “future mobility center” that will act as the overall control tower, according to the Ministry of Science and ICT.

The test bed, to be fully opened to the public and be operated 24 hours a day, will be used to conduct and test so-called Cooperative-Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) services based on 5G network communication, Yonhap news agency reported.

5G is the latest wireless communication network capable of superfast connection speeds, low latency and the ability to connect many devices without the system bogging down. The network, coupled with detailed 3-D images and maps of streets and related software, can make it possible for vehicles to be driven without human input.

Smartphone, 5G
5G to make way in automobile market as well. Pixabay

Asia’s fourth-largest economy was the first country in the world to launch full-fledged 5G services on April 3 and plans to provide coverage to neighborhoods in 85 cities that can benefit 93 per cent of the population by the end of 2019.

The ministry said seven vehicles — four buses and three passenger cars — will be operated on the 1.1-kilometer testing road, and citizens will be allowed to ride in the vehicles so they can see for themselves the ability of self-driving cars to recognise traffic signals, avoid obstacles on the road and ferry people safely from one place to another.

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While the country already has an operational test bed for autonomous cars in Hwaseong, some 60 kilometers south of the capital city, it is not open to the public, and is restricted for vehicle testing and certifications. (IANS)