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S. Korea, US to talk security amid new NK policy

Marines from South Korea and the US take part in amphibious landing drills in April 2020. (Ministry of National Defense)
Marines from South Korea and the US take part in amphibious landing drills in April 2020. (Ministry of National Defense)
Senior defense officials of South Korea and the US will hold a two-day dialogue on Korean Peninsula issues as the Biden administration seeks to engage North Korea with a new policy it recently revealed after a monthslong review.

The biannual talks, which began Wednesday US time in Washington, DC, are expected to address ways the two allies can coordinate their approach to Pyongyang.

Biden’s policy on North Korea, which many see as striking a middle ground between Trump’s “grand bargain” and Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches, aims to explore diplomacy with the regime and make “practical progress” on the denuclearization front, according to the White House.

The Biden administration has yet to provide details of how it plans to rekindle nuclear talks with North Korea, which has so far rebuffed diplomatic outreach from the US. The North is demanding sanctions relief.

Seoul and Washington will also discuss the transfer of wartime operational control and joint military drills slated for August. The US has exercised the command since the 1950-53 Korean War that still leaves the two Koreas at war.

South Korea is looking to test its readiness for the handover at the August drills, but the US remains reluctant because they are computer-simulated war games that do not involve mobilizing troops on the ground. President Trump suspended the field drills in 2018 to save costs and facilitate the North’s denuclearization.

Seoul, which first demonstrated its readiness in 2019 and has to do the same two more times to reclaim the command, is trying to follow through on President Moon Jae-in’s pledge to bring back the command before he leaves office in May 2022.

The next round of talks is scheduled for later this year.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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