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S. Korea seeks high-level talks with U.S. in Feb.: source

All News 10:51 January 20, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foreign ministry is pushing to hold high-level talks with the United States "as soon as possible" after Donald Trump takes office and the meetings could come as early as next month, a ministry official said Friday.

Negotiations are underway to arrange meetings between Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and the secretaries of state and defense under the Trump administration, according to the official. Trump is to take office on Friday (local time).

"(We) are having close communication with the U.S. to hold high-level talks with its secretaries of state and defense as soon as possible," the official said on condition of anonymity. "We are pushing to make it happen in the middle of February."

He said that since Yun's visit to the U.S. for such talks could be impossible due to scheduling restraints, the ministry is also consideration arranging meetings on the sidelines of international events scheduled for February.

His remarks are in line with the ministry's earlier policy report in which it is trying to have meetings between Yun and Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, arranged as quickly as possible.

The move is viewed as a way to build up closer communication with the new government and strengthen the alliance at a time when Seoul is facing a leadership vacuum in the wake of the parliament's impeachment of President Park Geun-hye last month over alleged corruption scandal.

Since Trump's surprise win in the presidential election late last year, concerns have been mounting that the alliance between Washington and Seoul could weaken and eventually hamper cooperation in many major issues including North Korea's nuclear threat.

Trump has demanded fair cost-sharing for the U.S. troop presence in South Korea, while arguing that a free trade deal with Seoul is killing jobs for U.S. citizens and that there could be renegotiations on the agreement reached years ago. On the campaign trail, he even mentioned a possible withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea.


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