Top U.S. diplomat for Asia to visit Seoul on Nov. 5: State Department

SEOUL-- David Stilwell, the top American diplomat for East Asia policy, will visit South Korea next month for talks with Seoul officials over the bilateral alliance and cooperation between the two countries, the U.S. State Department has said.

Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, will travel to Seoul on Nov. 5 as part of his Asia trip that also includes stops in Japan, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and China. It will mark his second visit to Seoul in his current capacity following the first in July.

His trip to South Korea has been arranged amid Washington's efforts to help reduce tensions between its two Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, that have been embroiled in a row over trade and history issues.

"The Assistant Secretary will travel to Seoul to meet with government officials to discuss the strength of the U.S.-ROK alliance and cooperation across our Indo-Pacific Strategy and the Republic of Korea's New Southern Policy," the State Department said in a press release.

ROK stands for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

The allies have been striving to find common ground between their regional policy initiatives.

Washington has been pushing its Indo-Pacific Strategy to capitalize on its alliance network to deepen regional engagement, protect global commons in maritime and other domains, and promote what it calls the rules-based order.

Seoul has been pushing its own strategy to deepen ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and India.

Stilwell's visit to Seoul is likely to draw attention to whether Washington will play a role in preventing the Nov. 23 expiration of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a military information-sharing pact between South Korea and Japan.

In August, Seoul announced its decision to terminate the GSOMIA, seen as a symbolic platform for Washington's trilateral security cooperation with its two Asian allies, in response to Tokyo's new export restrictions against its neighbor.

Seoul believes the export curbs are political retaliation for last year's South Korean Supreme Court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

In his talks with Seoul officials, Stilwell could also discuss a range of pending issues, including nuclear talks with North Korea and ongoing negotiations between the allies over the sharing of the cost for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. Forces Korea.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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