Defense chief headed to the U.S. to meet with Esper

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Defense chief headed to the U.S. to meet with Esper

Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo is headed to the U.S. capital on Sunday for talks with the Pentagon chief on pending alliance issues.

Among the agenda items in talks between Jeong and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, slated for Monday, are a scheduled spring joint military exercise and preparations for the wartime operational control transition, according to defense officials here.

The allies reportedly agreed to stage the combined drills in early March.

But Korea is fighting against the rapid spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, raising the possibility that Seoul and Washington will readjust the timing and size of the training.

“So far, there’s no change in connection with the combined exercise,” a Ministry of National Defense official said.

Jeong and Esper are also expected to exchange their views on how much Seoul should pay for the stationing of the U.S. Forces Korea.

The two sides have been struggling to strike a deal in the Special Measures Agreement talks.

Other major issues include Korea’s response to the coronavirus, the fate of the Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia) and a plan to upgrade the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system deployed on the peninsula.

The minister will also visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington.

He will meet U.S. Congress and National Defense University officials to discuss the Korean Peninsula and the alliance.

On his way back home, he is to make a stopover in California for a visit to marine units that took part in the Korean War, according to his ministry.

It will be Jeong’s first visit to the United States since Esper took office in July last year.

The secretary visited Korea in June and November.

Jeong is to return to Seoul on Friday.

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