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Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Seoul to revise US troops pact
Defence Secretary William Cohen surrounded by US troops in Korea
There are 37,000 US troops in South Korea
The United States and South Korea have agreed in principle to revise a military treaty governing US troops stationed in the country.

Officials from the two countries are meeting for two days of talks in Seoul to thrash out changes to the controversial pact.

Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jong-Il
The two Koreas are building bridges
The Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) has come under increasing criticism in South Korea, amid a growing tide of anti-American sentiment following the recent thaw in relations with North Korea.

Around 37,000 US troops are currently stationed in South Korea as a deterrent to the communist North.

Seoul's main complaint about the military agreement centres on the legal status of US troops accused of crimes.


At the moment, soldiers who commit offences are turned over to the South Korean authorities only after their trial and conviction.

Seoul says US troops suspected of crimes in Japan are handed over on indictment rather than on conviction. It wants the same arrangement.

South Korea's chief negotiator, Song Min-soon, said both sides had agreed in principle to revise this aspect of the agreement during the first day of talks on Wednesday.

Another bone of contention is the environmental damage caused by the US military.

Seoul wants to include environmental regulations in the Sofa, which will allow offenders to be punished.

The issue is high on the agenda after last month's embarrassing revelations that the US military had dumped gallons of toxic chemicals into the capital's main river.

Kidnap threat

Anti-American sentiment has intensified ever since the historic inter-Korean summit talks in June.

There have been a number of recent attacks on American servicemen, including the murder of an army doctor.

And one radical pro-North Korean student group has issued kidnap threats against American soldiers.

But South Korea's President, Kim Dae-jung, has ruled out the withdrawal of US troops, despite optimism over the Korean summit.

He says South Korea cannot afford to relax security until unification and lasting peace are fully achieved.

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
South Korea: US troops 'must stay'
15 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
World welcomes Korean sunshine
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas end propaganda war
16 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
US keeping troops in Korea
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
US cuts Korean war deaths
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