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Tillerson to visit S. Korea this week

All Headlines 08:59 March 12, 2017

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is to visit South Korea later this week for meetings with senior government officials to discuss issues of mutual concern including the growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea, officials said Sunday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will stay in South Korea for two days from March 17 during which he will meet with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and other senior government officials.

Tillerson's talks with Yun will be held on the first day of his stay in Seoul. They are expected to discuss mostly the North's nuclear threat and cooperation in applying more pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang, according to the officials.

This marks the second face-to-face meeting between the two following brief talks in Bonn, Germany, on the sidelines of a gathering of foreign ministers from Group of 20 nations last month.

Tillerson's visit to South Korea is a part of his Asia tour which will also take him to Japan and China.

This came amid heightened tensions in the region in the wake of North Korea's successive missile launches and the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

In particular, what messages Tillerson is to provide during his stay is drawing keen attention in that the diplomatic landscape surrounding the Korean Peninsula appears to be getting more cloudy and complicated.

South Korea currently remains at odds with Japan over a girl statue symbolizing Tokyo's wartime sexual slavery of Korean women. It faces stepped-up retaliation from China over the planned deployment of a U.S. missile defense called THAAD on its soil.

Experts said that Tillerson's trip to Seoul could also be a chance for the U.S. to reaffirm its strong commitment to alliance with South Korea at a time when Seoul is going through a leadership vacuum caused by the ouster of President Park Geun-hye.

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