South Korea and the United States started their second round of talks Wednesday to renew their cost-sharing agreement for the about 28,500 American troops stationed here.
The two-day talks started on South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju earlier in the day, following their first round of meetings held last month on Hawaii.
"First of all, I would like to extend my sincere welcome to senior adviser Betts and the U.S. delegation upon your visit to Korea, especially to the beautiful Jeju Island, which is often referred to as the Hawaii of Korea," Chang Won-sam, South Korea's chief negotiator, said at the start of the meeting.
"I hope we can return to the U.S. for its warm hospitality that was provided in the first round, and I also expect to have in-depth discussions under mutual trust and respect throughout the second round of consultations," he added.
South Korea has shared U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) upkeep costs since 1991 under the Special Measures Agreement (SMA). Seoul's contribution has increased to around 960 billion won ($887.5 million) this year from 150 billion won in 1991.
The current arrangement, signed in 2014, is set to expire on Dec. 31. The U.S. is currently demanding Seoul shoulder more of the financial burden.
South Korea's negotiation team is led by Chang, a career diplomat who was appointed to the position in mid-November. His U.S. counterpart is Timothy Betts, deputy assistant secretary for plans, programs and operations at the U.S. State Department.
Betts emphasized that the allies share the "objective of strengthening the alliance for the benefit of both of our people."
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha earlier said that South Korea has been a "very exemplary" ally for the U.S. in sharing the military cost, adding that the government will strive to draw a reasonable and transparent agreement that its people and the National Assembly can agree with.
Last month, the ministry ordered its incumbent ambassador to Britain to return home, apparently to hold him responsible for allegedly not reporting some parts of the previous agreement to lawmakers. He was the chief negotiator for the 2014 cost-sharing agreement subject to parliamentary approval.