Biegun, S. Korean counterpart discuss alliance, regional security: state dept.

WASHINGTON, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and his South Korean counterpart discussed a wide range of issues, including ways to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific, the state department said Friday.
The department said Biegun and Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun also discussed ways to enhance cooperation with Japan to promote regional security.
“Biegun congratulated First Vice Foreign Minister Choi on his recent appointment and pledged to continue close cooperation with the Republic of Korea on a broad range of shared interests,” it said in a released statement.
Choi arrived here Wednesday on his first trip he was appointed vice foreign minister last month. He previously served as a secretary for peace planning at the National Security Council of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
The department statement came one day after Choi and Biegun met, in which Choi earlier said they discussed ways to strengthen the countries’ alliance, partly by establishing a new dialogue channel between director-level officials, tentatively named alliance dialogue.
They also agreed to commit themselves to reaching a breakthrough in long stalled discussions on sharing the cost of maintaining U.S. troops in South Korea that normally only involve working-level officials, Choi said in a meeting with reporters here.
The state department confirmed the defense cost-sharing agreement, known as the Special Measures Agreement, was one of topics for the Biegun-Choi meeting.
“The Deputy Secretary and Vice Minister discussed the Special Measures Agreement, reaffirmed the enduring strength of the U.S.–ROK alliance, and discussed ways to enhance the Alliance to ensure it remains a force for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific for the decades ahead,” it said. ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.
It said the two also discussed regional issues that included cooperation with Japan to promote regional security and a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The U.S. has been ratcheting up its drive to build a NATO-like collective structure in the Indo-Pacific region amid its growing rivalry with China.
Choi earlier dismissed reports that Washington may be pressuring Seoul to join its Indo-Pacific initiative, saying allies do no such thing to their friends.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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