Sung Kim arrives on five-day trip to South
The U.S. special representative for North Korea arrived in Seoul on Monday for talks with his South Korean counterpart and other officials, including the transition team of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, regarding Pyongyang's recent missile launches and possible future weapons tests.
Ambassador Sung Kim’s five-day trip to South Korea comes after the North tested what it called a “tactical guided weapon” on Saturday, which was witnessed by leader Kim Jong-un, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“It’s great to be back in Seoul to continue our close coordination on DPRK developments,” Kim told reporters upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, referring to the North by the acronym for its official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Kim served as U.S. ambassador to Seoul from November 2011 to October 2014.
Kim met with Noh Kyu-duk, Seoul’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, at the Foreign Ministry in Jongno District, central Seoul in the afternoon.
The two exchanged views on North Korea’s Saturday weapons test and the security situation around the Korean Peninsula, they said at a press conference after their meeting, and vowed continued close cooperation.
Kim said the allies would continue to work closely to respond “responsibly and sternly” to North Korea’s actions.
Kim stressed that the U.S. will maintain close cooperation with South Korea through the presidential transition period in Seoul.
Noh characterized face-to-face consultations with the U.S. special envoy as “evidence that the two countries are closely cooperating on all issues related to North Korea.”
Kim is due to meet with South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Unification Ministry.
Kim is also expected to meet officials from President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition team to coordinate North Korea policy with the incoming administration.
Observers say Kim could meet Kim Sung-han, a former vice foreign minister and key member of the transition team’s foreign policy subcommittee, and Park Jin, who Yoon has nominated as foreign minister.
Jung Pak, the U.S. deputy special representative for the North, will accompany Kim to his meetings.
Kim’s visit coincided with the beginning of annual springtime joint military exercises held by the United States and South Korea on Monday.
The drills, which will run through April 28, “will be an opportunity to improve the combined operational performance of South Korean and U.S. soldiers and further solidify the combined defense posture,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday.
Seoul and Washington conducted a four-day crisis management staff training from Friday as a preliminary drill.
Pyongyang has traditionally protested Seoul-Washington military exercises, which it views as war rehearsals, and such annual drills have often been times of exacerbated tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
April 25 marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People's Revolutionary Army, which could be an occasion for a military parade, while Yoon Suk-yeol will be inaugurated as South Korea's new president on May 10.
A period of military tensions on the peninsula is expected to continue through next month, with analysts pointing out that North Korea could conduct a seventh nuclear test in the near future.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]