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US spy chief visits Seoul ahead of Moon-Biden summit next week

By Lee Ji-yoon

Published : May 12, 2021 - 17:11

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US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies on April 29, 2021, at a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on worldwide threats, in Washington, DC. (AFP-Yonhap) US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies on April 29, 2021, at a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on worldwide threats, in Washington, DC. (AFP-Yonhap)
US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines arrived in Seoul on Wednesday, ahead of next week’s summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Joe Biden.

According to diplomatic sources, the US spy chief is expected to tour the Demilitarized Zone, including the border village of Panmunjom, on Thursday.

Discussions are also reportedly underway for her to meet with Moon and his national security adviser, Suh Hoon. Seoul’s presidential office declined to confirm the meeting.

Haines was coming from Tokyo, where she held bilateral and trilateral meetings with Park Jie-won, head of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, and Hiroaki Takizawa, Japan’s Cabinet intelligence director, on Tuesday and Wednesday to exchange views on North Korea and other regional issues.

With the new US security team wrapping up its monthslong policy review on North Korea, multiple contacts are believed to have been made between US officials and their South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

The US government is also reaching out to North Korea for a policy briefing. After months of unresponsiveness, sources said, the North responded to the overture last week, though it didn’t immediately accept the offer of dialogue.

On April 30 the White House confirmed the completion of its North Korea policy review, indicating a more practical and gradual approach to dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Speculation here suggested that more details of the new policy would be disclosed soon, but it could take more time in light of ongoing consultations.

Presidents Moon and Biden are set to hold a summit in Washington on May 21. North Korea is expected to be high on the agenda during their first face-to-face meeting, along with other pending issues such as COVID-19 vaccines and a semiconductor chip shortage.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)