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Vice FM Choi leaves for US for talks with Biegun on peninsula peace process, alliance issues


Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun left for Washington on Wednesday for talks with his US counterpart over joint efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula and other bilateral alliance issues.

Choi, who took office last month, is scheduled to meet US.

Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun on Thursday local time, as the two countries strive to address an array of pending issues, including stalled dialogue with North Korea and deadlocked defense cost-sharing talks.

"We will check the pending issues that South Korea and the US have had for the last three years, and the Korean Peninsula peace process, and exchange each other's views on how to proceed with them down the road," Choi told reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, before departing.

"In that sense, the talks will serve as an important opportunity to stably manage the alliance and share each other's thoughts," he added.

Asked to comment on the US' apparent efforts to bring South Korea on its side amid its campaign to keep an increasingly assertive China in check, Choi said he will "calmly" take a look at the issue and communicate his thoughts with Biegun.

"There seems to be some difference between what we hear through the media and the reality," the vice minister said. "As Biegun is an interlocutor that we have always been communicating with from the beginning years of our administration, I believe this will be a good opportunity to have candid talks."

Their talks are also expected to include efforts to break an impasse in negotiations over the sharing of the cost for stationing 28,500 US troops in South Korea and coordinate on inter-Korean economic cooperation and other alliance issues.

The two sides could also touch on a set of geopolitical issues, given that the US has been trying to close ranks with its regional allies amid its intensifying rivalry with China on multiple fronts, including trade, technology and maritime security.

Last Wednesday, Choi and Biegun held their first phone talks. (Yonhap)