Yun, Kerry discuss crisis with Ebola, Middle East

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Yun, Kerry discuss crisis with Ebola, Middle East



Washington and Seoul are bolstering communication and cooperation on issues ranging from combatting the deadly Ebola outbreak to countering militant groups, amid concerns that Seoul has recently tilted toward neighbor Beijing.

The moves also come ahead of upcoming high-level security talks between the United States and Korea, including the annual bilateral Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) held next week in Washington.

Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that upon the request of Washington, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se held a phone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday.

Noh Kwang-il, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a briefing yesterday that the two exchanged opinions on various global issues, including the Ebola crisis, the most recent situation on the Korean Peninsula and the South Korea-U.S. “two plus two” foreign affairs and defense ministerial dialogues.

Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters Wednesday that Kerry spoke with Yun “as a part of, certainly, his regular consultations with him” and that they “talked about bilateral, regional and global issues, including Ebola as well as North Korea.”

President Barack Obama has vowed to take a more aggressive stance on countering Ebola after the infection of a second American health care worker in Texas.

This is a part of Washington’s push, Psaki said, to “raise public awareness of this issue internationally, and the fact that we do need more from the international community.”

Psaki added, “But there is more that needs to be done, and no single UN agency, no single country or NGO can meet the rapidly increasing demands alone.”

In a high-level meeting, Korea pledged $5 million in humanitarian aid to help prevent the spread of Ebola as a response to the virus outbreak last month on the sidelines of the United National General Assembly in New York, which was attended by Minister Yun.

Seoul also contributed $600,000 in humanitarian assistance in the early stages of the Ebola outbreak.

Noh said yesterday, “We plan to decide on future support after taking into consideration cumulatively how the situation unfolds.”

Likewise, Seoul is backing Washington on other key global issues including Obama’s pledge to destroy the militant group the Islamic State, also referred to as ISIL or ISIS.

In a speech at the UN Security Council last month in New York, President Park Geun-hye condoned Obama’s intentions and said, “ISIL
and terrorist fighters from around the globe are endangering Iraq. This isn’t simply a threat to one country or one region. It affects us all.”

She added that Korea is a “partner in this campaign” to root out terrorism and is giving “humanitarian aid to countries threatened by ISIL and foreign fighters.”

Lee Kyung-soo, deputy minister for political affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said at a seminar on ISIL hosted at the Foreign Ministry yesterday, “We are now in a situation where the international community has higher expectations of our role in the Middle East issue.”

Korea’s active support for such key issues on the U.S. agenda comes as analysts have pointed out that Seoul is growing closer to Beijing, while diplomatic tensions with Tokyo continue.

Such communication channels between Seoul and Washington pave the way for more fruitful defense cooperation, such as with the upcoming Security Consultative Meeting and the bilateral defense and foreign affairs ministerial dialogue.

The two sides have yet to reach a consensus on key security issues such as the timing of the transfer of wartime operational control to Korea and the deployment of Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (Thaad), an advanced missile-defense system, on the Korea Peninsula.


BY SARAH KIM, JEONG WON-YEOB [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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