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Senior U.S. diplomat in Seoul for talks as GSOMIA termination looms
Updated: 2019-11-07 07:02:10 KST
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell had marathon meetings with South Korean officials Wednesday, amid speculation that the talks focused on GSOMIA, the joint military intel-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo that's set to expire in a few weeks.
But not much is known about the closed-door discussions.
Speaking to reporters after talks with Seoul's foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha and vice foreign minister Cho Sei-young, Stilwell said that he sees a recent meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the ASEAN meetings as "encouraging."

"Very encouraged while we were there to note that President Moon and Prime Minister Abe had the opportunity to talk. And that's an encouraging sign as we watch the relationship improve."

Stilwell also emphasized that the South Korea-U.S. alliance is the linchpin of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
He didn't answer questions about GSOMIA, but his remarks are seen as portraying Washington's stance that it wants the deal extended for trilateral security cooperation.
In August, Seoul decided not to extend the pact in response to Japan's economic retaliation over a court ruling ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of Japan's wartime forced labor.

During talks later in the day with South Korea's Deputy National Security Advisor Kim Hyun-chong, they covered various issues including GSOMIA and cost-sharing of U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula.
The presidential office said in a statement that the two sides had constructive and future-oriented discussions on the matter with Kim explaining Seoul's stance, while Stilwell reiterated that their bilateral alliance is a linchpin to security in Northeast Asia.

Stilwell also sat down for talks with Seoul's Deputy Defense Minister Chung Suk-hwan to discuss the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and ways to cooperate further for the development of their alliance.
Arriving at the defense ministry, he was asked whether GSOMIA was discussed in his previous meetings, to which he said he had "fantastic discussions" with officials on topics of agreement.
But it's unclear whether that included GSOMIA.

It appears that while Stilwell refrained from pressuring officials in public he likely explained Washington's position during the meetings.
Kim Min-ji, Arirang News.
Reporter : kimmj@arirang.com