Advisory
Immediate Release

Bilateral Meeting Between Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and ROK Minister of Defense Kyeong-doo Jeong

Feb. 23, 2020

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper will host a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Defense from the Republic of Korea (ROK), Kyeong-doo Jeong, at the Pentagon on Monday, February 24, 2020 at 1630 EST.  The two leaders will discuss a range of bilateral issues including the regional security environment, policy towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), transition of wartime operational control (OPCON), and the U.S. ROK Special Measures Agreement (SMA). 

The U.S.-ROK Special Measures Agreement helps to offset the significant cost of stationing U.S. forces within the Republic of Korea.  Contributions are divided across three categories: Korean National labor, ROK funded construction, and logistics, with the vast majority of SMA contributions going back into the ROK economy. Funding provided under the 10th Special Measures Agreement lapsed on December 31, 2019. 

Since then, in the absence of ROK agreement to a new SMA that covers costs more equitably, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has taken the additional step to enable continuity of its operations by programming U.S. funds to sustain the salaries of its Korean National workforce.  These U.S. funds will be exhausted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, unless the ROK government agrees to materially increase its support for U.S. forces committed to the defense of the ROK.  If agreement cannot be reached on a comprehensive new SMA, it will be necessary to furlough most KN employees on April 1, 2020, and suspend many construction and logistics activities.

USFK has been conducting continuous planning to mitigate risk to life, health, safety and minimize impacts to readiness. The Department of Defense will fund critical USFK logistics cost sharing contracts and the salaries of key USFK Korean National employees who provide these services. All other services supported by KN employees will need to be suspended in an orderly and deliberate fashion. 

Furloughs may be avoided if the ROK agrees to a more equitable SMA.  The United States remains committed to negotiating a mutually acceptable agreement which provides for fair and equitable burden sharing and strengthens the U.S.-ROK alliance.