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Yonhap News Summary

Yonhap News Summary 13:30 November 06, 2019

The following is the first summary of major stories moved by Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday.

(3rd LD) Senior U.S. diplomat calls recent Moon-Abe meeting 'encouraging' sign
(ATTN: ADDS photo, more info throughout)

SEOUL -- The top American diplomat for East Asia on Wednesday described this week's meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as an "encouraging" sign in fence-mending efforts between Seoul and Tokyo.

Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell made the remarks after paying courtesy calls on Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young during his trip here seen as an effort to help defuse tensions over trade and history between Washington's two Asian allies.

"Very encouraged while we were there to note that President Moon and Prime Minister Abe had the opportunity to talk and that's an encouraging sign as we watched the relationship improve," Stilwell told reporters.

(2nd LD) S. Korea proposes sending delegation to inspect facilities at Mount Kumgang
(ATTN: ADDS ministry spokesperson's remarks in paras 4-5, details at bottom)

SEOUL -- South Korea has proposed sending a delegation to inspect its long-abandoned facilities at North Korea's Mount Kumgang, the unification ministry said Wednesday, after Pyongyang rejected Seoul's offer to hold face-to-face talks on the fate of the suspended joint tour program.

In the proposal sent Tuesday, the ministry said the delegation will be comprised of government officials and business people. The move appears aimed at seeking face-to-face contacts with the North to discuss the fate of the tour program to the mountain on its scenic east coast.

The proposal came about a week after Pyongyang turned down Seoul's offer for working-level talks over its demand to remove all the facilities built by the South at the mountain in an apparent threat to end the joint tour program.

"Schedules and other details related to the visit will be determined through consultations with the North," Lee Sang-min, the ministry's spokesperson, told a regular press briefing.

(LEAD) Korea's current account surplus hits 11-month high in Sept.
(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by central bank official and data in paras 9-12)

SEOUL -- South Korea's current account surplus reached an 11-month high in September, although its amount narrowed from a year earlier due to slowing exports, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The country's current account surplus reached US$7.48 billion in September, compared with a surplus of $11.01 billion a year earlier, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The figure represents a surplus for five months in a row. The current account is the biggest measure of cross-border trade.

The September tally, however, marks the highest since October last year when the comparable figure was $9.35 billion, the data showed.

Park Dong-jun, head of the balance payment team at the BOK, said slowing exports were to blame for the narrowed current account surplus.

(LEAD) S. Korea to reduce troop numbers to 500,000 by 2022
(ATTN: UPDATES with details on measures in last 4 paras; ADDS byline and photos)

SEOUL -- South Korea said Wednesday that it will reduce its number of troops to 500,000 by 2022 in the latest move to tackle looming demographic challenges as Asia's fourth-largest economy faces a rapidly aging population.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki also said South Korea will reform the country's military in a way that utilizes technologies, such as weaponized drones, reconnaissance satellites and unmanned aircraft.

The plan comes as the number of people required to serve in the military is projected to fall to 225,000 in 2025 before dropping to 161,000 in 2038, compared with 360,000 in 2016.

(LEAD) U.S. holds out prospect of peace regime on Korean Peninsula
(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks, details in last 6 paras)

WASHINGTON -- Building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula is an integral part of U.S. President Donald Trump's vision for North Korea, a U.S. official involved in denuclearization negotiations with the North said Tuesday.

The remark by Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Alex Wong comes as negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled due to differences over how much the North should denuclearize in order to receive sanctions relief and security guarantees from the U.S.

North Korea has warned that it will wait only until the end of the year for the U.S. to come up with an acceptable proposal.

Int'l marriages in S. Korea up 8.5 pct in 2018

SEJONG -- The number of international marriages between a South Korean national and a foreigner rose 8.5 percent in 2018 from a year earlier, government data showed Wednesday.

There were 23,773 international marriages last year, up 1,856 from 2017, according to the data by Statistics Korea.

It marked the second straight year that the number of international marriages has increased, and the highest since 2014 when the comparable figure was 24,387.

International marriages began to decrease in 2011 when the South Korean government tightened rules in issuing marriage migrant visas.

International marriages accounted for 9.2 percent of total marriages of 257,622 in South Korea in 2018, up from 0.9 percentage point tallied in the previous year.

S. Korea, U.S. hold high-level talks on economic cooperation

SEOUL -- South Korea and the United States held vice-ministerial economic cooperation talks in Seoul on Wednesday, largely aimed at enhancing their key regional policy initiatives in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, the foreign ministry said.

The Senior Economic Dialogue (SED) took place between Second Vice Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho and Keith Krach, undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment at the State Department. It was the fourth session to be held since its 2015 launch.

The talks were expected to center on identifying overlap between Seoul's New Southern Policy and Washington's Indo-Pacific Strategy -- signature regional policy initiatives being pushed by their respect governments -- and coordinating ways to advance the shared goals toward tangible progress.

"The SED has become a core pillar to further strengthen bilateral economic partnership under the robust Korea-US alliance," Lee said ahead of the meeting. "I'm pleased to know that SED has now matured into yielding some concrete projects and results and I think there will be more to come in various areas."


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