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Senior US envoy Sherman to visit Korea next week

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (Yonhap)
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman (Yonhap)
 
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will visit South Korea and Japan next week for talks on global and regional security issues, such as North Korea, the State Department said Thursday. 

On the first leg of her weeklong trip to Asia, Sherman will stop in Japan, where she is to hold a trilateral session with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts Wednesday. 

Sherman, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun will discuss “trilateral cooperation on pressing shared challenges, including regional security issues such as the DPRK, as well as climate change and global health,” the department said, using the acronym of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 

Choi, while in Japan, is also scheduled to hold a separate bilateral session with Mori, according to the Foreign Ministry here. 

The US envoy will then fly to Korea on Wednesday for a three-day stay, marking her first visit since taking office in April. While in Seoul, she will meet officials here and hold a strategic dialogue with Choi to discuss “bilateral and multilateral cooperation on shared priorities, including the climate crisis, pandemic relief and post-COVID-19 economic recovery,” the department said. 

“The visit by Sherman will provide an occasion that will further strengthen coordination between South Korea and the US on the Korean Peninsula, regional and global issues,” the Korean ministry said in a statement. 

Sherman and Choi are expected to discuss ways to induce Pyongyang back to the stalled denuclearization talks. The two will also likely touch on follow-up measures to the outcome of the summit between President Moon Jae-in and Joe Biden in May. 

The Unification Ministry on Friday said that the discussions were underway for Sherman’s possible visit to the ministry for talks, but nothing has been confirmed yet. 

From Seoul, Sherman will travel to Ulaanbaatar to meet with Mongolian officials to reinforce their relationship, and discuss their shared values of democracy and human rights, including freedom of region or belief. 

The three-way session in Tokyo will be the first vice-ministerial talks to take place between the three countries in four years. Launched in 2015, the three-way session was held in the following two years, but halted during the Donald Trump administration. 

The revival of the talks and Sherman’s Asia trip are seen as part of the efforts by the Biden administration to bolster three-way cooperation with its key Asian allies to keep an increasingly assertive China in check in the region. 

Throughout the trip, Sherman would “reaffirm the US commitment to working with allies and partners to promote peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and to upholding the international rules-based order,” the department said, in an apparent reference to the US efforts to counter China. 

Earlier reports said Sherman will visit China while in the region, but the US government’s announcement didn’t include China in her itinerary. 

It is unclear whether her trip to China has been outright canceled, or the visit could be still arranged in a last minute. 

The Financial Times on Friday reported that Beijing refused to allow Sherman to meet with her Chinese counterparts amid a worsening diplomatic standoff between the two countries. 

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