David Stilwell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, arrived in Seoul late Tuesday for talks with Korean officials on their bilateral alliance and ongoing regional affairs. He is on a tour of Asia.
Stilwell is expected to hold a series of meetings with government officials here and to pay a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, according to Foreign Ministry officials.
David Stilwell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific, arrives at Incheon International Airport in South Korea on Nov. 5. (Yonhap)
One of the top issues the two allies are expected to discuss is the ongoing row between South Korea and Japan, as the Nov. 22 expiration of an intelligence-sharing pact between the two draws near.
Bilateral ties between South Korea and Japan hit rock bottom when Tokyo imposed export controls on some of Seoul’s industrial materials. The restrictions were seen here as retaliation against the Korean top court’s ruling that ordered Japanese companies to pay damages to Korean victims of wartime forced labor.
As the conflict intensified, South Korea announced its withdrawal from the General Security of Military Information Agreement with Japan. Opposing the move, Washington has publicly expressed dissatisfaction over Seoul’s decision to scrap GSOMIA, saying it would weaken the trilateral security alliance in the region.
On Saturday, Stilwell met with Deputy Foreign Minister Yoon Soon-gu on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Bangkok. Yoon asked the US to play a role in resolving the conflict with Japan.
As the two met in Bangkok, Stilwell and Yoon will not meet here, the Foreign Ministry said.
Stilwell may also talk about the defense cost-sharing deal, as he is scheduled to meet with Seoul’s Deputy Defense Minister for Policy Chung Suk-hwan on Wednesday. The two countries are currently discussing cost-sharing for the maintenance of the 28,500 US troops stationed here.
Stilwell is also expected to discuss ways to engage the US’ Indo-Pacific Strategy and South Korea’s New Southern Policy, as the two countries push to cooperate in building stronger regional ties.
Following their meeting in Bangkok, Yoon and Stilwell issued a fact sheet detailing how the two sides will cooperate in three areas -- people, peace and prosperity.
Stilwell kicked off his trip to Asia on Oct. 24. Before traveling to Korea, he visited Japan, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand. He will leave for China on Thursday.
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com