The two teams, led by Jeong Eun-bo on the Korean side and James DeHart on the U.S. side, held their sixth round of talks on Tuesday and Wednesday to renew the countries’ Special Measures Agreement (SMA). The previous SMA expired at the end of last year.
“The two sides broadened their mutual understanding and consensus but confirmed that there are still differences between them,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday without elaborating on what those differences are.
During the talks, Korea stuck to its existing position that negotiations should be conducted within the framework of the current agreement and that a “reasonable and equitable” deal should be reached, the ministry said.
The two sides agreed to work together to conclude negotiations at an early date, it said.
The allies have shown disagreement over determining Seoul’s payment for maintaining some 28,500 U.S. soldiers on its soil. Washington has demanded a significant increase in the financial contributions and creation of additional categories for Seoul to shoulder the cost for rotational troop deployments to the peninsula.
Under last year’s SMA, Seoul was required to pay some $870 million.
Arriving in Washington on Monday, Jeong told reporters that the two sides are narrowing their differences but still remain apart on how to reach a “comprehensive” deal.
U.S. President Donald Trump has branded Korea a rich country that should pay more for its defense. In a media interview over the weekend, he claimed, “They’re going to pay us a lot more.”
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