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South Koreans largely optimistic about Trump-Kim summit

13 February 2019
South Koreans largely optimistic about Trump-Kim summit

Past agreements lasted five years, Reuters notes, and the South Korean side was hoping to extend the 2019 deal at least three years. Bargaining for 2020 funding is likely to restart in months. Washington's top negotiator, Betts, also met with South Korea's Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, before signing the agreement.

A group of activists staged a rally Sunday in front of the foreign ministry building against the agreement, claiming that renegotiating the agreement would largely increase Seoul's burden.

Some conservatives in South Korea voiced concerns over a weakening alliance with the United States amid a stalemate in negotiations with North Korea to deprive it of its nuclear weapons.

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 US military.

Services had not been interrupted thanks to reserve funds, but USFK had warned the Korean Employees' Union that it would have to put local staff on unpaid leave beginning in mid-April if a deal wasn't reached.

The South Korean ministry hasn't immediately revealed the exact amount of money Seoul would pay this year under the new deal. In their meeting, Kang said the allies were able to close the gap on the size of South Korea's contribution thanks to goodwill and trust.

The nationwide survey of 501 South Koreans found about 62.5 percent of respondents optimistic about the prospects for settling "the North Korean nuclear problem", while 35.2 percent said the summit would weaken the U.S.

South and North Korea marched together at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and fielded a unified women's ice hockey team.

The United States, meanwhile, reaffirmed the need for a "stable USA military deployment" and offered assurances that it has no plans to change the number of forces on the divided peninsula, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

They said Trump might use the failed military cost-sharing negotiations as an excuse to pull back some of US troops in South Korea, as a bargaining chip in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"If the cost of increasing the defense spending to match whatever firepower the U.S. forces were able to provide on the Korean Peninsula is larger than the increase [in cost-sharing], it makes no mathematical sense for South Korea to not contribute more to the cost-sharing agreement", Kim said.

Mahmoud Mohieldin, the World Bank Group's senior vice president, said in October 2018 that Pyongyang will have to go through necessary procedures to get support from its member states and that this would become possible only if it fulfils its denuclearisation pledge. After the meeting, Trump suspended major joint military exercises with South Korea. At the time, Pyongyang claimed it fired a new model of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called the Hwasong-15 at Japan.

Vietnam's foreign minister has arrived in North Korea ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam's capital later this month.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to discuss the upcoming summit with Trump soon, according to a spokesman from the Blue House.