S. Korea, U.S. nearing deal on defense cost sharing: Lawmaker

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SEOUL: South Korea and the United States may conclude their drawn-out negotiations on defense cost sharing as early as Thursday, a ruling party lawmaker said, adding Seoul's share will likely be set at around 1 trillion won (US$889 million). 

"The defense cost sharing negotiations have entered their final stage," Rep. Lee Soo-hyuck of the ruling Democratic Party told reporters. 

"(The sides) have agreed to set the amount only for this year, and are in the process of narrowing their differences to around 1.05 trillion won," said Lee, a member of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs. 

The amount is designed to reflect an 8.2-percent increase in Seoul's own defense spending in 2019, the lawmaker added. Seoul paid about 960 billion won in 2018 as part of the cost to maintain 28,500 U.S. troops here. Previously, the allies renegotiated their burden sharing only once every five years. 

The U.S. is said to have demanded a minimum $1 billion for 2019, along with annual renewal of the cost-sharing agreement. Lee said Seoul and Washington may initial their newest agreement before the day is over, and that the agreement may be sent to parliament for ratification in April. Yonhap