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Kang, Pompeo reaffirm close cooperation on peninsular affairs

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (left) poses with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington on Monday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (left) poses with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington on Monday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed their commitment for their countries to closely cooperate on ensuring the stable management of the Korean Peninsula situation.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the top diplomats of the two countries held talks during a luncheon in Washington on Monday, discussing pending bilateral and regional issues.

Kang and Pompeo agreed on continuing efforts to develop South Korea-US relations and ensure progress on the Korean Peninsula peace process based on their strong alliance, the ministry said. They also agreed to continue communication and consultations between the two countries at various levels.

“The two ministers assessed the current situation and stressed to continue close cooperation between the two countries to ensure stable management of the Korean Peninsula situation,” the ministry said.

The US State Department also underlined in its statement that the two sides reaffirmed the “enduring strength and importance” of the alliance, calling it the “linchpin to peace and security for the Indo-Pacific region.”

Kang and Pompeo also exchanged views on the ongoing election of selecting the next leader of the World Trade Organization, in which South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee is competing against Nigerian candidate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the final round. The race for the WTO’s next director general has been deadlocked, as the US blocked the Nigerian front-runner and backed Yoo, despite her failure to win majority support from the member states.

Kang’s visit to the US capital arrives shortly after Democrat Joe Biden defeated sitting President Donald Trump to become the next president of the country. The incoming Biden administration is expected to bring significant changes in US foreign policy, including its role in the world and how it deals with allies, Seoul being no exception.

During her stay in Washington through Wednesday, Kang is expected to meet with Biden aides, though she declined to provide details. Reports say she could meet Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, Biden’s longtime ally who is tipped to be Secretary of State in the new administration, and Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy under President Barack Obama and a potential Biden pick for defense secretary.

Meanwhile, Seoul’s top nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon, who is visiting Washington along with Kang, met his counterpart Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who doubles as the US point man on talks with the North on Monday. The two sides discussed ways to manage the situation on the Korean Peninsula and how to deal with the reclusive regime.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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