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Biegun to visit Seoul for talks on alliance, N. Korea

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C. (Yonhap)
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C. (Yonhap)
US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun will visit Seoul this week for talks with South Korean officials about alliance issues and the stalled nuclear dialogue with North Korea, officials said Monday.

The four-day trip starting Tuesday is expected to be Biegun's last visit to Seoul as the No. 2 American diplomat and the US point man on North Korea before the administration of President Donald Trump ends its four-year term.

"He will meet with officials in the Republic of Korea to discuss the US-ROK Alliance and our shared commitment to regional security, stability, and prosperity throughout the Indo-Pacific, and continued close coordination on North Korea," the State Department said in a statement.

Those accompanying him on the trip will include Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for North Korea, and Allison Hooker, senior director for Asian affairs at the White House's National Security Council, diplomatic sources said.

On Wednesday, Biegun will meet with First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun before holding talks with Seoul's chief nuclear negotiator, Lee Do-hoon, to discuss the prolonged deadlock in the denuclearization talks with Pyongyang, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha plans to host a banquet for him Friday.

Unification Minister Lee In-young will meet with Biegun, his office said, though it did not provide details, such as when the meeting will take place.

During his visit, Biegun is also expected to deliver a lecture at a local think tank, sources said.

Biegun's trip comes amid concern that North Korea could make provocations to test the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden. His discussions are expected to focus on ways to keep the situation on the Korean Peninsula stable.

Other issues Biegun could discuss in Seoul include the stalled negotiations between the two countries to determine South Korea's share of the costs to maintain 28,500 American troops stationed here.

Biegun was appointed in August 2018 as the US Special Representative for North Korea and promoted to deputy secretary in December last year. Despite the promotion, he has concurrently served as the lead interlocutor with the North.

Biegun will depart for home on Saturday.(Yonhap)

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