Seoul to push for summit between President-elect Yoon and Biden at early date: delegation

WASHINGTON, April 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol will seek to hold summit talks with U.S. President Joe Biden at an early date, the head of Yoon's delegation said Thursday, adding the Biden administration also understands the need for an early meeting between them.

Rep. Park Jin of the People Power Party said the exact date and other details of a Yoon-Biden summit will be discussed through diplomatic channels. Yoon is set to take office May 10.

"Every person we have met in the U.S. has highlighted the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance to the U.S.," Park said in a press briefing.

Park and six other members of the U.S.-South Korea Policy Consultation Delegation arrived in Washington on Sunday for meetings with various U.S. administration officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, as well as U.S. lawmakers and experts from think tanks.

Park said the U.S. "fully supports President-elect Yoon's vision and determination to further upgrade (the countries' relationship) into a comprehensive and strategic alliance."

"We could actually see how many expectations the U.S. has for the incoming administration of Yoon Suk-yeol," he added.

The chief delegate said after meeting with Sherman on Monday that the sides have formed a "consensus" on the need to form a comprehensive and strategic alliance.

Park added the delegation has also proposed holding a Two-Plus-Two meeting of the allies' foreign and defense ministers before the year's end and that such meetings be held annually.

"We believe foreign and defense ministerial talks are needed especially in a time of such a serious security situation as now when we face new challenges," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Seoul for a two-plus-two meeting with their South Korean counterparts in March 2021, but the meeting marked the first of its kind since October 2016.

The delegates also discussed with U.S. officials the need to strengthen their countries' cooperation to deal with ongoing provocations by North Korea, according to Park.

"The U.S. officials seemed to believe the North will likely continue to make additional provocations," he said. "We talked about the need for watertight coordination against North Korea's continued nuclear and missile provocations."

North Korea conducted 12 rounds of missile launches this year, also firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 24, marking its first ICBM launch since November 2017.

Many believe Pyongyang may also be preparing to resume its nuclear testing, with earlier reports pointing to ongoing construction work at the North's Punggye-ri nuclear test site that was purportedly demolished in 2018.

Park said the delegates have raised the issue of reactivating a high-level dialogue between Seoul and Washington on extended deterrence, known as the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group, to discuss possible deployment of U.S. strategic assets to South Korea against North Korean provocations.

He did not provide any specific U.S. responses to the request for talks on U.S. strategic assets.

Still, Park said the sides agreed on the importance of their joint military exercises.

"I believe both South Korea and the U.S. understand very well the importance of joint military drills to maintain their deterrence and defense posture against North Korea," he said in the press briefing.

Source: Yonhap News Agency