The US envoy says relations with South Korea will stay sturdy below Biden


© Reuters. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks with South Korean Deputy Secretary of State Choi Jong-kun during his meeting at the State Department in Seoul


From Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – A senior US envoy said Wednesday that the confidence and alliance between Washington and Seoul will remain strong regardless of the upcoming change of government, the South Korean State Department said.

The remarks came when US Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who led unsuccessful efforts to turn US President Donald Trump’s personal contact with North Korea into progress in denuclearization talks, met with South Korean Deputy Secretary of State Choi Jong-kun.

Choi asked Biegun to play a bridging role in ensuring that the successes the two allies have achieved together move forward before President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.

Choi said the two allies had made significant achievements over the past three years under South Korean President Moon Jae-in in building peace on the Korean peninsula, working together on COVID-19 responses, and relocating U.S. military facilities in South Korea .

Neither side publicly mentioned an ongoing multi-billion dollar dispute between the two allies over how much Seoul should pay to keep the roughly 28,500 US troops on the peninsula.

Biegun also met with South Korea’s chief negotiator Lee Do-hoon to discuss North Korea’s denuclearization problems, the US embassy in Seoul said in a Twitter post.

Biegun is also due to meet a number of South Korean officials, including the Foreign Minister and the Unification Minister who manages relations with North Korea.

The visit could be the last for Biegun in his current role after Trump lost his offer for re-election to Democratic challenger Biden, who will take office in January.

While Biegun has said he is ready for discussion anytime, North Korea says it will not return to the negotiating table until the United States drops its hostile policies.

The visit comes after North Korea cracked down on South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha for expressing doubts about her claim that there were no coronavirus outbreaks there and warned of consequences for her “cheeky” comment.

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