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S. Korea, U.S. arranging telephone conversation between top diplomats

All News 15:46 June 20, 2017

SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha plans to have a telephone conversation with U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson and express consolation over the death of an American student who was recently released from detention in North Korea, Seoul officials said Tuesday.

"Currently, South Korea is adjusting with the U.S. the schedule for a telephone conversation between Minister Kang and Secretary of State Tillerson," foreign ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said in a press briefing.

The countries are also arranging Kang's trip to the U.S. following the planned phone talks, the spokesman said. It will be Kang's first personal contact with Tillerson since she took office on Monday.

During the call, Kang plans to extend "deep condolences and consolation" to the U.S. over the death of Otto Warmbier.

The 22-year-old University of Virginia student died on Monday, less than a week after being released from North Korea in a state of coma. He was detained by North Korea 17 months ago while traveling the country, on charges of taking a North Korean propaganda banner.

The spokesman also extended condolences, saying "our heart goes out to the bereaved family, U.S. people and the government who are gripped with indescribable shock and grief."

"Human rights and dignity are universal values that no one can deny. Protecting the life and safety of citizens is the foremost duty of any country," he said, calling on the North to release several South Korean and American citizens currently still detained in the country.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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