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Pentagon chief to visit S. Korea next month

09:05 May 24, 2019

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) -- Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan plans to visit South Korea next month as part of a four-nation trip to Asia, officials said Friday.

Shanahan, whom U.S. President Donald Trump intends to nominate as his defense secretary, will embark on a trip Tuesday "to visit Hawaii, Jakarta, Singapore, Seoul and Tokyo," the U.S. Department of Defense said in a release.

The ministry did not specify the exact dates of his visits to each destination, but he is likely to tour the countries in the same sequence stated in the release, according to Seoul officials.

He is expected to fly to Seoul from Singapore, where he is to attend the Asia security forum, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, set to run from May 31-June 2, which will bring about top defense chiefs from the world, including South Korea, Japan and China, they added.

"In Singapore, Secretary Shanahan ... will meet with key leaders from the region and announce the Department of Defense's new strategy for the Indo-Asia Pacific," the Pentagon said, adding he will meet key leaders throughout his trip "to reaffirm defense relationships and conduct bilateral and multilateral meetings with senior officials."

On the sidelines of the Singapore dialogue, Shanahan is expected to hold trilateral talks with South Korea's Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya.

"But the bilateral talks between Jeong and Shanahan appear to take place in Seoul," an official here said, adding that issues of mutual interests, including North Korea, will be high on the agenda.

According to earlier reports by Japan's Kyodo News, Shanahan is to visit Seoul on June 2-3 before visiting Tokyo on June 3 for a two-day schedule.

The planned meetings among defense ministers come at a time when negotiations between the United States and North Korea on the North's nuclear programs have been stalled. In an apparent expression of discontent, North Korea carried out weapons tests twice earlier this month, involving two short-range missiles.

Shanahan has been the acting defense secretary since January after James Mattis stepped down in December over policy differences with Trump.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (L) shakes hands with acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan ahead of their talks at the Pentagon on April 1, 2019, to discuss the security situation on the peninsula and pending issues, in this photo provided by Seoul's defense ministry. (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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