White House delegation to visit Seoul for summit preparations

SEOUL-- White House officials handling Korea affairs are to visit South Korea later Monday to make preparations for a summit between new President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, government sources said Monday.

The delegation led by Matt Pottinger, senior director for East Asia at the National Security Council (NSC), will arrive in Seoul in the evening for a two-day stay. Allison Hooker, director for Korea at the NSC, will accompany him, according to the sources.

This will mark the first time for high-ranking White House officials to travel to South Korea after Moon was sworn in as president last Wednesday.

The U.S. officials are expected to meet with senior South Korean officials from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the foreign ministry to apparently discuss the timetable and other necessary issues related to summit talks that Moon and Trump are seeking to hold.

A foreign ministry source said that Chung Eui-yong, a former South Korean ambassador to Geneva, who currently leads Moon's security and diplomatic task force, and Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Jeong-kyu are among those the U.S. officials will meet during their stay.

It remains unclear whether they will pay a courtesy call to President Moon, he added.

Observers say that the summit will likely take place as early as June. Some expect their first talks could be delayed until the Group of 20 summit to be held in Germany on July 7-8 or even after.

The leaders will likely discuss cooperation on North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats. Also high on the agenda could be the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, which was decided and carried out by the administration of Moon's predecessor.

The White House delegation's trip to Seoul, meanwhile, comes amid heightened tensions after the North carried out a ballistic missile test on Sunday, Pyongyang's first provocation since Moon's inauguration.

Moon condemned North Korea for the latest missile launch, calling it a grave threat to regional security and a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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