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(3rd LD) S. Korea, U.S. foreign ministers hold talks on N. Korea

Diplomacy 22:06 January 21, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS Kang's comments regarding defense sharing costs in paras 8-10)

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea and the United States had phone talks Monday on North Korea and pending alliance issues, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the results of the latest high-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

Kim Yong-chol, a top North Korean envoy, visited Washington D.C. for negotiations with Pompeo last week. He met with President Donald Trump as well.

The U.S. was quick in announcing that Trump's second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place in late February. It did not reveal an exact date and venue amid working-level discussions between the two sides are under way in Sweden.

Vietnam is cited as a possible location. Trump reportedly favors the central coastal city of Da Nang, while Kim wants the capital, Hanoi.

An image depicting phone talks between South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (L) and her U.S. counterpart, Mike Pompeo. (Yonhap)

Kang and Pompeo assessed the North Korean official's trip to the U.S. as "successful" and agreed to cooperate closely on a second Pyongyang-Washington summit so that it will lead to the faithful implementation of the agreement made at the previous one in Singapore on June 12 last year, according to the ministry.

They also talked about the issue of sharing the costs of stationing American forces in South Korea. They agreed to strive for an early deal that is rational and mutually acceptable, on the basis of the alliance spirit, it said.

Kang had a closed-door meeting with lawmakers at the National Assembly later in the day to brief them on the details of ongoing negotiations with the U.S. over the matter.

"We are in deep disagreement (with Washington) over the issue. That's for certain. I cannot disclose any details regarding the amount," she told reporters after the meeting.

"The government will do our best to reach a deal that is affordable, rational and convincing to the parliament as well as to the public."

The allies had ten rounds of bargaining on the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) throughout last year but failed to strike an agreement.

The Trump administration has called for Seoul to sharply increase its yearly contribution from the current 960 billion won (US$850 million) for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).


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