SEOUL, Two progressive civic groups on Sunday called for a review of the character of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) in line with the two Koreas' efforts for reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and Minbyun-Lawyers for a Democratic Society issued the call, with Seoul and Washington set to hold a third round of negotiations this week on sharing the cost for the upkeep of 28,500 American troops in the South.
"As (the two Koreas) are in the process of implementing the Panmunjom Declaration and establishing a peace regime, the character and size of the USFK, and the scope of its activities should be reviewed," the two groups said in a joint statement.
The declaration was issued after South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic summit at the truce village of Panmunjom on April 27. The two leaders agreed to reduce military tensions, improve bilateral cooperation and seek a formal end to the Korean War and a peace treaty.
After the landmark declaration, some experts have raised the possibility that cross-border peace efforts could test the relevance of the USFK, whose central role is to deter North Korean aggression and provocations.
Moon, however, has said that the USFK is a matter of the Seoul-Washington alliance and that it has "nothing to do with" a peace treaty that the two Koreas agreed to pursue to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended only with a truce.
Regarding the allies' talks on the cost of American troops here, the civic groups called for more transparency in spending procedures, more parliamentary oversight and a ban on the use of money for supporting the deployment of U.S. strategic assets.
On Thursday, the groups delivered their joint position to the foreign ministry's task force on the negotiations.
The allies' existing five-year cost-sharing deal is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.
Seoul has shared the financial burden for the USFK since the early 1990s. Its contribution has increased to around 960 billion won ($887 million) in 2018 from 150 billion won in 1991, officials said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency