April 30 (UPI) — The United States and South Korea have not reached a settlement on defense burden sharing despite reports indicating otherwise, according to a South Korean news service on Thursday.
News 1 reported a source at Seoul’s presidential Blue House confirmed negotiations on the Special Measures Agreement are ongoing and the two sides have yet to agree on a final number.
The Trump administration has said South Korea should pay as much as $5 billion annually for maintaining 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula, but Seoul has suggested the U.S. demand cannot be met. On Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said a 13 percent increase from current levels of contribution is the “highest amount possible.”
According to News 1, government sources said the two sides agreed to a 13 to 14 percent increase in South Korea’s burden sharing at the end of March. But on April 20, during a press briefing at the White House, Trump publicly denied any deal was reached.
The most recent SMA expired at the end of 2019. South Korean workers at U.S. military bases were furloughed on April 1.
Uncertainty about the future of cost sharing comes at a time when the absence of Kim Jong Un is triggering questions about stability on the peninsula.
The U.S. military could be closely monitoring North Korea.
South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported Thursday two U.S. RC-12 Guardrail planes, special reconnaissance aircraft, were deployed from Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.
The aircraft also flew in South Korean airspace on Wednesday, according to the report.
Shin Jong-woo, director of Seoul-based Korea Defense and Security Forum, said the multiple deployments indicate the U.S. military is seeking precise readings and identification of relevant signals located in North Korea.
Kim has not been seen in public for 19 days.