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South Korea agrees budget hike to keep US troop presence

South Korea has agreed a deal to keep US troops in the country after a series of security scares on the peninsula. Seoul signed off on a significant increase in spending, as Pyongyang continues to issue threats.

South Korea said on Sunday it would pay 920 billion won ($866 billion, 634 million euros) in 2014 toward the growing cost of the US' military presence in the country.

Officials struck a deal to share the costs over the next five years as Washington prepares to send more troops and tanks to the country as part of an effort to shift its military emphasis toward Asia and away from Europe.

"The US side had demanded a large-scale hike, considering US Forces Korea's strengthened readiness due to (the) serious security situation in the Korean peninsula and its budget situation, but the government put the utmost efforts and drew agreement to an extent to minimize our burden," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.

With South Korea still technically at war with North Korea, Seoul has contributed toward part of Washington's costs in stationing troops on the de-facto border, to the tune of about 40 percent, since 1991.

The latest agreement remains subject to the approval of the South Korean parliament.

The agreement follows a series of military threats and perceived provocations on the part of North Korea. The execution of Kim's once-powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek has been viewed by some analysts as a possible sign of instability.

There are currently some 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, the legacy of the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.

rc/tj (AFP, Reuters)

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