Korea, US to create working-level channel for alliance talks

12-Sep-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

South Korea and the United States will establish a dialogue channel between working-level personnel to discuss a wide range of diplomatic issues, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Friday.

The agreement was made at the first meeting between vice Foreign minister Choi Jong-kun and US deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun in Washington, D.C., Thursday. Choi took office last month after serving at Cheong Wa Dae’s national security office from March 2019 to August 2020.

The face-to-face meeting took place less than 10 days after they held a phone conversation, September 2, during which they agreed to meet as early as possible and discuss the overall bilateral relations and regional affairs.

“They concurred on launching an alliance dialogue, a working-level consultation body, in which director-level officials from the two countries’ foreign ministries will discuss an array of pending issues on a constant basis,” the foreign ministry said in a press statement.

After the meeting, the vice minister told reporters that the new dialogue was part of efforts to boost the allies’ cooperation.

Later in the day, the foreign ministry said the new channel would be different from the existing Korea-US working group, a forum to coordinate North Korea-related issues.

“The working group is about coordinating sanctions on North Korea, while the new dialogue channel will deal with various matters beyond the North Korean sanctions such as defense cost-sharing and others,” a ministry official said at a briefing. “There would be no overlap in terms of their roles.”

South Korea and the US have yet to strike a defense cost-sharing deal despite multiple rounds of negotiations dating back to last September, with Seoul refusing to accept Washington’s demand for a hefty increase in the former’s share for the US Forces Korea under the Special Measures Agreement (SMA).

US President Donald Trump wanted $1.3 billion (1.55 trillion won) for 2020 ? a nearly 50 percent increase from last year ? while the South Korean government is maintaining its proposal of a 13 percent increase from the previous cost-sharing accord of $860 million.

During the talks, Choi and Biegun also exchanged their views on the issue, according to the ministry.

“Regarding the SMA talks, the two agreed to have close communication between them so the negotiations can make significant progress,” it said. Jeong Eun-bo and Donna Welton are now the top negotiators of each side.

Both allies agreed to cooperate on advancing nuclear talks between South and North Korea and between the US and the North, both of which have been stalled since the collapse of the Hanoi summit in February between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

“They agreed to work together to diplomatically support the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the ministry said, adding that Biegun also expressed support for the Moon Jae-in administration’s efforts to improve inter-Korean ties.



Category: Korea

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