South Korea and the U.S. will hold a fresh round of defense cost-sharing talks in Washington this Friday for the stationing of nearly 30-thousand U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday the 9th round of the Special Measures Agreement will be attended by its top negotiator, Jeong Eun-bo, and his U.S. counterpart, Donna Welton.
The ministry said the government expects the upcoming discussions to be aimed at finding a mutually acceptable agreement and that it'll work to contribute to strengthening the two countries' alliance and combined defense posture.
The face-to-face meeting on the matter comes one year after the 7th round of talks held in Los Angeles last March.
The 8th round was held via videoconference last month.
South Korean media outlets speculate that the rare face-to-face meeting indicates that a deal is imminent considering no senior U.S. State Department official has conducted such a meeting in light of the coronavirus pandemic since the Biden administration came into office.
Also, with the Biden administration's emphasis on strengthening U.S. alliances considered as a top priority it's expected that the matter will be settled promptly compared to the Trump administration.
The two countries have yet to strike a deal for the 2019 defense cost-sharing as then President Donald Trump rejected an offer of a 13-percent increase from Seoul's last payment of about 900-million U.S. dollars after asking for a fivefold increase.
For the upcoming negotiations, it's believed Seoul is sticking to its offer of a 13-percent increase this time and that the two sides could be working on a multi-year agreement instead of the current one which expires yearly.
Kim Ji-yeon, Arirang News.