New top U.S. diplomat for East Asia to visit Seoul next week

SEOUL, David R. Stilwell, the new top U.S. diplomat handling Asian affairs, will visit South Korea next week as part of his first Asia trip since taking office last month, Seoul's foreign ministry said Friday.

The assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs is set to arrive in Seoul on Tuesday for a three-day visit during which he will meet top South Korean officials, including Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

Stilwell is currently in Japan and is scheduled to visit the Philippines before flying to Seoul.

His Asia tour, which also includes a stop in Thailand, comes amid a highly charged spat between Seoul and Tokyo that was triggered by a recent Japanese export control measure that is seen as a retaliatory step for last year's Supreme Court rulings here against Japanese firms over wartime forced labor.

South Korea has been stepping up diplomatic efforts to reverse Tokyo's trade restrictions, which it argues run counter to free trade principles and would further aggravate tensions between the two countries. Seoul has also been asking the U.S. to help mediate a resolution.

The trip also comes as the U.S. is asking allies to join an initiative to ensure freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz off Iran. South Korea said it has not received any request yet from the United States to join the initiative.

In Seoul, Stilwell plans to pay a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Kang, a foreign ministry official said. He is also expected to visit the presidential office Cheong WaDae.

A former Air Force brigadier general, Stilwell was officially appointed on June 20. Prior to his current post, he served in the Air Force for 35 years, beginning as an enlisted Korean linguist in 1980 and retiring in 2015 as the Asia advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, according to the State Department.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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