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Peace on Korean Peninsula ultimate goal of US regardless of election outcome: Ambassador Lee

South Korean ambassador to the United States, Lee Soo-hyuck (Yonhap)
South Korean ambassador to the United States, Lee Soo-hyuck (Yonhap)
WASHINGTON -- Establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula will remain the ultimate goal of the US-South Korea alliance regardless of who wins the upcoming US presidential election, South Korea's top diplomat in the United States said Wednesday.

Ambassador Lee Soo-hyuck said that both the Republican and Democratic parties agree on the need to denuclearize North Korea and establish lasting peace on the peninsula.

"Regardless of which government comes next, making the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula its ultimate goal is only natural," Lee said in a meeting with South Korean reporters here.

If elected, President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden will likely take different approaches toward North Korea, but they both agreed on the need to peacefully denuclearize the North, Lee said.

"And we plan to continue our consultation in that direction" with whoever emerges victorious in Tuesday's election, he added.

Trump has held three bilateral meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, becoming the first sitting US leader to hold a summit with a North Korean leader.

Biden, however, often criticized Trump's summitry diplomacy, accusing him of granting Kim the international recognition that he had long sought, while getting nothing in return.

Kim agreed to give up his nuclear ambitions in the first-ever US-North Korea summit held in Singapore in June 2018. But the US-North Korea denuclearization talks have stalled since the second Trump-Kim summit, held in Hanoi in February 2019, ended without a deal.

"Our embassy will work to secure the foundation for our diplomatic efforts toward the United States over the next four years so that our government's peace process can move forward and the South Korea-US alliance can stably develop regardless of which candidate wins the election," Lee said.

The ambassador said the outcome of the US presidential election will not only decide how the US deals with the North Korean nuclear issue but also how it interacts with its allies, including South Korea, and the rest of the world.

"The outcome of the US presidential election is an element that will have an enormous effect on the direction of our diplomacy with the United States over the next four years, which can be called the issue of the highest interest for our government, including the embassy," he said.

South Korea and the United States are currently deadlocked in negotiations to set Seoul's share of the cost to maintain some 28,500 US troops in South Korea.

Seoul has offered to increase its burden-sharing by up to 13 percent from the $870 million it paid under the Special Measures Agreement, but Washington is said to be asking for a 50 percent hike to $1.3 billion.

The US is reported to have initially demanded Seoul pay $5 billion per year.

"It is true that there exist many issues between South Korea and the United States that need to be closely discussed, such as the defense-cost sharing and transition of the wartime operational control of South Korean troops, but I have clearly expressed my belief that the South Korea-US alliance has been the core of our country's diplomacy and that the alliance must be further developed based on shared values and mutually beneficial interests," Lee said.

"The South Korean Embassy in the United States will continue its efforts to create a strong foundation for the development of the South Korea-US alliance as soon as the winner (of the US election) is announced," he added.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is also expected to visit Washington shortly after the US election, for talks with her US counterpart, Mike Pompeo, according to informed sources.

The South Korean foreign ministry earlier said that Kang has agreed to visit the US in the near future at Pompeo's invitation.

Pompeo was scheduled to visit Seoul earlier this month but canceled his trip after Trump was diagnosed with the new coronavirus. (Yonhap)
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