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SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. military will put nearly 9,000 South Korean workers on unpaid leave from April in the absence of an agreement on cost-sharing to keep 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, it told the government. The United States angered workers in South Korea in April after the two allies failed to sign a new cost-sharing agreement. Although the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have made some progress in negotiating the Exceptional Measures Agreement (SMA), the two sides do not appear ready to engage in meaningful negotiations. The basic positions of the two countries remain totally different: the United States wants a negotiated agreement that reflects the total cost of ROC defence beyond the existing ADM, including transportation, training and equipment for the Korean Armed Forces (USFK), while the ROK tries to maintain the current framework of the SMA, which covers only three categories : the cost of labor for Korean workers in USFK, logistics costs and construction for USFK. The United States will host the Republic of Korea (ROK) from October 22-24 in Honolulu, Hawaii, for consultations on the Special Measures Agreement (ADM). The SMA, a kind of burden-sharing agreement, is the mechanism with which the Republic of Korea shares the costs of US forces for the defence of the Republic of Korea. The United States has had ADMs with the Republic of Korea since 1991 and this new agreement will replace the existing SMA, which expires at the end of 2019. The workers, mainly employed by U.S. bases, were placed on unpaid leave in April, which led to a temporary agreement in June for South Korea to finance about 4,000. “In the absence of a signed ADM or a related bilateral agreement, the USFK can be … Korean national employees will not begin until April 1.

President Donald Trump has said that South Korea should pay more, and differences of opinion have raised the prospect that it may at least withdraw some American troops, as he has done elsewhere. The ROK`s position is well received by the local public, but almost a non-departure for “real” negotiations. The confusing presentation of their position in the United States is equally problematic. In December 2019, in Seoul, the chief U.S. negotiator said publicly, “As parties to the agreement, we can amend the agreement if we agree to do it together. This is why the SMA agreement has been updated and modified over the years. This statement, as well as the United States` characterization of its position as an extension of the previous ADM, is misleading because “SMA” is not only an acronym for the “Special Measures Agreement” but for the agreement on specific measures regarding Article 5 of the facilities and territories and the status of U.S. forces in Korea (SOFA) agreement.