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U.S. defense and state secretaries likely to visit Seoul next month

U.S. defense and state secretaries likely to visit Seoul next month

Posted March. 13, 2015 07:14,   


New U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and State Secretary John Kerry will likely visit South Korea next month, sources said. Their possible visits are drawing attention to whether they will become an opportunity for official discussions of the controversial issue of deploying the U.S.-developed terminal high-altitude area defense (THAAD) missile system to South Korea, as the two allies` annual Foal Eagle joint military exercises are to end on April 24.

Sources in Washington said Wednesday that Carter, who was sworn in on February 17, has decided Northeast Asia for the destination for his first overseas visit as the U.S. defense chief and is fine-tuning the schedule for the visit. "As the schedule has yet to be finalized, the possibility of his actual visit is 50-50," a source said. If Carter`s visit to Seoul is finalized, it will likely be an opportunity for the new U.S. defense chief to reaffirm strong Seoul-Washington joint defense capabilities against North Korea and cheer up U.S. troops stationed in the South.

Kerry`s visit to Northeast Asia seems to be more likely to take place than Carter`s. The top U.S. diplomat`s Seoul visit would be for a preliminary check on agendas for the planned visits to the U.S. by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. One source said that Kerry discussed the plan at a Congressional hearing. Kerry`s visit to Seoul is expected to serve as an opportunity to reaffirm the Seoul-Washington alliance after a recent attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert and discuss issues between the two allies, including those involving North Korea.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Defense said Wednesday that U.S. and Chinese defense officials held their inaugural Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue in the U.S. capital on Tuesday. David Shear, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, led the U.S. delegation, while Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, director of the Defense Ministry’s foreign affairs office, led the Chinese delegation, according to the Pentagon. "During the full-day dialogue, Shear and Guan discussed security interests of mutual concern," the Pentagon said without providing details of the talks.