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(LEAD) S. Korean, U.S. FMs likely to hold their first phone conversation

All News 18:37 February 05, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details and prospect for phone conversation; RECASTS headline, lead)

SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson will likely hold their first telephone conversation this week, a South Korean foreign ministry official said Sunday.

"We're currently fine-tuning the exact timing for a phone conversation between South Korean and U.S. foreign ministers with a plan to hold it on Tuesday (Korean time)," the official said, requesting not to be named.

The conversation, if made, would mark the first formal contact between foreign ministers of the two allies since Tillerson took office. The former Exxon Mobil chief executive was sworn in as U.S. Secretary of State promptly after the U.S. Senate approved his confirmation motion on Wednesday.

Yun is expected to congratulate Tillerson on being sworn in and stress the need for maintaining close cooperation between the two allies against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.

In addition, the two ministers will reaffirm the strong alliance between their nations and discuss how to cooperate in dealing with rapidly changing political situations in Northeast Asia, observers said.

The Seoul government wants to hold a South Korean and U.S. foreign ministers' meeting in Washington at the earliest possible time, but is considering holding a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of two multilateral meetings set to open in Germany in the middle of this month as an alternative option.

Both Yun and Tillerson are scheduled to attend a G20 foreign ministers' meeting in Bonn on Feb. 16-17 and the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17-19.


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