Monday, April 27, 2009

S. Korea, U.S. yet to finalize agreement on U.S. base relocation: No Surprise/ No Worry

Negotiations 101 or Risk Avoidance
Korea media notes that many details on the U.S. military base relocation are still pending. On one level this is no surprise. In fact, in Korean style negotiations once a general agreement is reached--an agreement in spirit--getting a final, detailed agreement is often a huge challenge. This upsets many in the West.(I run into this often). It's often felt that whoever demands both side sign the agreement is under pressure and will make concessions. Stalling is a ploy to gain an advantage. At other times, it's risk avoidance--with signing the agreement a possible risk. In this case, one side will put off signing an agreement until the risk of not signing put the entire deal at risk. The later risk more painful than not signing. A third reason for not signing agreement might be logistics--in many Korean firms the Chairmen or CEOs sign key agreement and getting the document to this top leadership can take time... and timing.

With regard to the base relocation is see little reason for concern. It will happen. You can plan on it.

SEOUL, April 23 (Yonhap) -- High-level negotiations between South Korea and the United States ended Thursday without finalizing a timeline and cost-sharing plans for the relocation of American bases here, an official said.

The U.S. has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. It has been pushing to relocate most of its forces south of the capital, Seoul, as part of a global troop realignment.

The U.S. argues the relocation can only be completed by 2016, while South Korea has called for an earlier deadline arguing that inflation could significantly raise the costs involved as time lapses.

During their talks at the Combined Forces Command, South Korean Vice Defense Minister Chang Soo-man and U.S. Gen. Walter Sharp made "considerable progress" in narrowing their differences over the issue but agreed to meet again sometime next week, Lee Jae-young, a spokesman for the joint unit overseeing the relocation, said.

"The two sides held earnest discussions and expanded their understanding of related issues," Lee told reporters. "A substantial agreement could come next week."

The meeting is seen as largely focused on the timetable for the relocation of Yongsan Garrison and the 2nd Infantry Division to Pyeongtaek, about 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

Yongsan Garrison is based in Seoul while the infantry division is headquartered in the city of Dongducheon, north of the capital.

South Korea says the garrison should be moved to Pyeongtaek by 2014 and the infantry division by 2015. The U.S. has stuck to 2016 for both bases.

South Korea will reportedly shoulder up to 5.5 trillion won (US$4 billion), while the U.S. will pay 6.8 trillion won ($5 billion) for the entire relocation.

The U.S. had already delayed the target year set for the relocation in July. It sought a further delay late last year after estimating the expansion of its Pyeongtaek base to accommodate the relocation by 2015 would require twice the budget it could procure.

South Korea balked at the request and said its share of the costs would increase by nearly 50 percent from such delay.

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