By Kim Na-young
SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Philip Goldberg met with the leaders of the ruling and main opposition parties Tuesday and discussed improving bilateral cooperation over various issues, including North Korean threats and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Goldberg first met with the ruling People Power Party interim chief, Chung Jin-suk, at the National Assembly and offered condolences for the victims of the Itaewon crowd crush that happened Saturday night.
"The United States stands with the Republic of Korea during this tragic time. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our earnest hope for the speedy recovery of those injured," Goldberg said.
Chung also expressed condolences for American victims of the accident.
At least 156 people, including two American nationals, died from the Itaewon crowd surge.
Chung and Goldberg agreed that Seoul and Washington should continue to strengthen their ties despite the difficult situation, as military tensions are escalating on the Korean Peninsula while North Korea continues its provocations.
"North Korea says it has deployed strategic nuclear missiles for actual use and is threatening to hit U.S. territories, and South Korea's airports and harbors at any time," Chung said, adding the ROK-U.S. alliance should help people here have confidence it can overcome Pyongyang's nuclear threats.
"We should have readiness to 'fight tonight' based on the ironclad alliance between South Korea and the U.S.," Chung said.
Goldberg replied, "We go together," a phrase representing the Seoul-Washington alliance.
Following the meeting, Goldberg also met with the main opposition Democratic Party leader, Lee Jae-myung, and discussed security issues and the controversial U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.
On North Korea's threats, Lee told Goldberg he believes "no nuclear weapon of any type" is needed on the Korean Peninsula with strong extended deterrence in place. He also criticized some conservative lawmakers for talking about a need to deploy U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.
Lee also called for cooperation to resolve concerns over the IRA.
The IRA is a new piece of U.S. legislation that gives tax credits only to electric vehicles assembled in North America, raising concerns it will act as a significant trade barrier for Korean carmakers.
"We too acknowledge the concerns of Republic of Korea and companies in this country about the IRA, and we are working with our Korean allies to resolve those issues in a way that fits our alliance," Goldberg said.
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