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Agreement on Expense for US Forces in S Korea Reached
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South Korea and the United States on Wednesday reached an agreement on how to share the cost of maintaining US troops in the country, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said.

"The results of the negotiations this time would not fully satisfy either side, but those are regarded as the most reasonable based on the spirit of the South Korea-US alliance," said a press release by the ministry.

The agreement was made during a telephone talks between chief negotiators of the two sides, the ministry said.

According to the ministry, South Korea agreed to contribute a total of 725.5 billion won (US$780 million) next year to the cost of US Forces Korea (USFK), up 45.1 billion won from this year.

South Korea also agreed to increase its contribution in 2008 inline with inflation under the two-year contract, the ministry added.

The agreement will take effect after being approved by the National Assembly by the end of this year.

South Korea and the United States have conducted six rounds of negotiations on the issue since May this year. In the past five rounds of negotiations, the two sides failed to reach consensus due to differences over the proportion of Seoul's burden as well as the duration of a contract.

The South Korean government had insisted to cut down its burden for the coming years as Washington has decided to reduce its troops in South Korea from the current 30,000 to 25,000 by 2008, while the US side asked Seoul to allocate more expenses in line with the development of South Korea's economic power.

The US had sought a long-term contract to save time spent for related negotiations and secure its military budget. But South Korea wanted to sign a deal effective for two or three years.

There are about 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea. The United States plans to scale back the number to around 25,000 by 2008 as part of its global troop realignment plan.

Under an earlier agreement between Seoul and Washington, South Korea provides 680.4 billion won (US$708 million) each year from 2005 to 2006 to assist the US troop presence.

(Xinhua News Agency December 7, 2006)

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