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Top US envoy, defense chief to visit Korea

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 26, 2021 in this photo released by the Associated Press. (AP-Yonhap)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington on Feb. 26, 2021 in this photo released by the Associated Press. (AP-Yonhap)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet their South Korean counterparts on March 17 and 18 to discuss security and global initiatives, in the first senior-level talks to be held in person between the two allies since US President Joe Biden took office, Seoul’s Foreign and Defense ministries said Wednesday.

Blinken will discuss inter-Korean affairs and the South Korea-US alliance with Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, while Austin will sit down with Defense Minister Suh Wook to assess the latest security developments on the peninsula, including North Korea’s denuclearization, the ministries said.

The Biden administration is expected to wrap up its policy review on North Korea by next month or so, according to the latest reports. Seoul and Washington, which have yet to align their approaches to Pyongyang, are expected to discuss a timeline for Korea to reclaim its wartime operational command from the US.

On the sidelines, the two allies will discuss global goals such as climate change ahead of a videoconference between their leaders slated for April 22, Earth Day, the ministries added. The following month, the two leaders will meet again at another summit on green projects that Seoul hosts.

Speculation is mounting over whether the two countries will use the event to highlight their alliance, as they have essentially settled a prolonged dispute over how they should share the cost of maintaining the 28,500 US troops here.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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