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Yun, Tillerson reaffirm ‘joint approach' to NK threats

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Published : 2017-02-07 16:02
Updated : 2017-02-07 17:52

The top diplomats of South Korea and the US reaffirmed their commitment to shoring up the alliance Tuesday, calling for a joint approach to tackle North Korea’s “imminent threats,” Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said. 

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se had his first phone conversation with new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was sworn in last week, days after US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to Seoul. 

During the 25-minute talks, the ministers agreed to continue “coercive diplomacy” to thwart Pyongyang’s unabated nuclear ambitions, while strengthening the alliance to a comprehensive, multifaceted partnership to handle regional and global issues.
Foreign minister Yun Byung-se (right) shakes hands with US defense secretary James Mattis (Yonhap)
“The sides also concurred they will deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system here as planned under the view that it is a defensive step to respond to North Korean threats and does not damage other nations’ interests,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Yun singled out North Korea’s nuclear program as the “most critical foreign policy and security issue that the Donald Trump administration will face,” calling for a mobilization of a round-the-clock consultative scheme. 

Tillerson, for his part, affirmed the US’ “steadfast” security commitment to its key Asian ally including the extended deterrence, saying the allies should develop a “joint approach” to the communist state’s “immediate threat.” 

The ministers agreed to meet in the near future. They may gather on the margins of the Group of 20 ministerial conference in Bonn, Germany, or a security forum in Munich later this month. 

Ahead of the call, Tillerson also spoke with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida by phone, during which he reaffirmed that the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands claimed by China are subject to the US’ defense commitment.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)