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U.S. arms control envoy to hold talks in Seoul about China threats

Defense 09:29 September 28, 2020

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. special envoy for arms control was to hold talks with South Korean officials Monday about how to cope with China's arms buildup, as Washington pushes to deploy intermediate-range missiles in Asia as a counterbalance.

Marshall Billingslea, special U.S. presidential envoy for arms control, will meet with Ham Sang-wook, deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, Seoul officials said. The U.S. diplomat arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a two-day visit.

In a pre-trip interview with Yonhap News Agency, Billingslea said the purpose of his visit is to discuss "the rapid Chinese buildup of nuclear weapons and ballistic and conventional missiles." The envoy also said he will share "additional intelligence to share with our ally regarding the Chinese programs."

Billingslea's visit comes as Washington has ramped up its call on its allies and friends in Asia to join its various initiatives to counter Chinese threats, including developing defense capabilities.

Observers expect that Billingslea could use this trip to step up the U.S. call for Seoul to cooperate in its push for the deployment of medium- and intermediate-range missiles in Asia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said last year that the U.S. wants to deploy conventional ground-based missiles in Asia, a day after the U.S. withdrew from the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed with the former Soviet Union.

China has strongly objected to the idea and warned South Korea and Japan against such deployments.

In the recent interview, Billingslea said the U.S. is willing to help South Korea prepare against missile threats from its neighbors, but it will be up to Seoul to decide what defense capabilities it wants to build.

This file photo, released by EPA on June 23, 2020, shows Marshall Billingslea, special U.S. presidential envoy for arms control at the State Department. (Yonhap)

elly@yna.co.kr
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