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Kang emphasizes S. Korea-US coordination ahead of summits

INCHEON -- South Korea's top diplomat said Thursday that it is important to maintain close coordination with the United States to discuss details of their summit plans with North Korea.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters before leaving for the US that she will do her best to prevent any possible disruptions in communication between the allies, a concern that has been spawned by President Donald Trump's recent firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"It is necessary to maintain close coordination (between South Korea and the US) at various levels in making preparations for critical diplomatic events going forward," Kang said.

Her US trip comes as the US has agreed to hold an unprecedented summit with North Korea by May to discuss denuclearization. It would follow a separate inter-Korean summit to be held in late April.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha answers reporters before leaving for the US at the Incheon International Airport on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha answers reporters before leaving for the US at the Incheon International Airport on Thursday. (Yonhap)

She went ahead with her three-day travel plan despite the decision announced on Tuesday night by Trump to replace Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Kang and Tillerson were scheduled to meet on Friday.

Kang is instead to meet with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, who is serving as acting secretary, and discuss details of the back-to-back summit plans.

Kang will also meet with Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to her father President Donald Trump during the trip.

"(We) will make efforts to maintain communication without any problem," she said. "This trip is also aimed at making sure of that."

Kang is also scheduled to meet congressional leaders to share information on the latest situations on the Korean Peninsula and call for the Congress' support for economic and trade issues involving South Korea. They include Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives; Cory Gardner, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's subcommittee for East Asia; and Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations.

Kang, however, is unlikely to meet the newly picked secretary of state.

"There is a custom in the US that a nominee (for a government post) refrains from meetings with foreign officials," ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said.

The spokesman also said despite the replacement of the US state secretary, there would be no change in the US plan to hold talks with North Korea since it is a decision made by the US president. (Yonhap)
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