Seoul’s top diplomat headed to Munich Security Conference

Feb. 11 (UPI) — South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is expected to attend the Munich Security Conference starting Friday as Seoul seeks to end the diplomatic impasse with North Korea.

Kang, who held bilateral and trilateral meetings with U.S. and Japanese counterparts in January, is expected to hold similarly structured discussions in Germany by the end of the week, News 1 reported.

Seoul foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said Tuesday at a regular press briefing Kang is to explain South Korea’s policy stance “related to the international community’s efforts to strengthen multilateralism.”

Kang is to also hold talks in order to exchange views on international cooperation on climate change, the ministry said.

Top U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, are expected to be in attendance. Top Japanese and Chinese diplomats are also scheduled to attend, according to Yonhap.

North Korea was initially planning to send a senior-level bureaucrat to Munich, but Pyongyang foreign ministry official Kim Son Gyong canceled his trip, according to South Korean press reports last week.

A South Korean government source said the decision may have been influenced by the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which has reached Germany and other parts of Europe.

In Munich, the United States and South Korea could address the issue of military cost sharing, Yonhap reported.

The Trump administration has asked Seoul to pay more for the cost of stationing 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula. South Korea has declined to pay as much as $5 billion annually, a number first reported in the country following an interview between U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Harry Harris and a local newspaper.

North Korea’s refusal to cooperate on denuclearization has led to increased surveillance.

On Tuesday, Aircraft Spot, an aviation tracker, published data of the movements of a P-3C plane, a maritime surveillance aircraft under the U.S. Navy, over South Korea. The flight comes after two spy planes flew over the South last Wednesday, according to Seoul Pyongyang News.

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