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Biegun to hold talks with S. Korean counterparts on stalled N.K. diplomacy, alliance

All News 08:15 December 09, 2020

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun was set to hold talks with his South Korean counterparts in Seoul on Wednesday, with alliance cooperation and stalled nuclear diplomacy with North Korea likely to top their agenda.

Biegun, who doubles as Washington's point man on Pyongyang, arrived in South Korea on Tuesday for what could be his last visit here in his current capacity, as Seoul seeks to reignite its lackluster peace drive when the incoming Joe Biden administration takes office next year.

Striking a jarring note hours ahead of Biegun's talks with Seoul officials, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, rebuked Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha's recent remarks on the North's COVID-19 situation and warned she might have to "pay dearly for it."

The deputy secretary is scheduled to meet First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun at 10 a.m. to discuss an array of pending issues, likely including the prolonged impasse in the countries' defense cost-sharing negotiations.

Rather than delving deep into such hard issues, they are expected to take stock of the two countries' overall partnership over the last four years and touch on cooperation in ensuring that alliance cooperation will run smoothly under the new U.S. government.

Later in the day, Biegun is set to meet with Seoul's top nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, to discuss joint efforts for lasting peace on the divided peninsula, including cooperation in preventing any North Korean provocation that could constrain diplomacy down the road.

Biegun and Lee plan to have dinner together.

During his stay in Seoul, the deputy secretary also plans to meet other senior Seoul officials.

On Thursday, Biegun is set to have a breakfast meeting with Unification Minister Lee In-young and give a lecture at a local think tank. He is also expected to meet with senior presidential officials and Kent Harstedt, the Swedish special envoy for the Korean Peninsula, during his trip here.

On Friday, Foreign Minister Kang plans to host a dinner for Biegun at her official residence.

Biegun will depart for the United States on Saturday morning.

In the July 8, 2020, file photo, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks during a meeting with South Korea's top nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, at the foreign ministry in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)


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