The top American diplomat for East Asia was set to meet a series of senior South Korean officials in Seoul on Wednesday amid a U.S. push to forestall the looming expiration of a military intelligence-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo.
Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell arrived here Tuesday, as the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), seen as a symbolic tool to foster the U.S.' trilateral security cooperation with its Asian allies, is set to expire on Nov. 23 unless Seoul reverses its decision to end it.
In August, Seoul announced the decision in response to Tokyo's new export curbs seen as political retaliation for last year's Korean Supreme Court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime forced labor.
On Wednesday morning, Stilwell plans to pay separate courtesy calls on Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and then First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young.
He is also expected to meet officials from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and defense ministry, such as Deputy Defense Minister Chung Suk-hwan.
Upon arriving in South Korea on Tuesday, the U.S. diplomat voiced his expectation for productive meetings so as to "reaffirm the alliance is the cornerstone of peace and security here in the region."
His visit to Seoul coincided with trips here by other senior State Department officials who came here to attend the Senior Economic Dialogue or the South Korea-U.S. joint public-private economic forum, or for other purposes.
Among them are Keith Krach, under secretary for economic growth, energy and environment; Marc Knapper, deputy assistant secretary for Korea and Japan; and James DeHart, the top negotiator in defense cost-sharing negotiations with South Korea.
During their stay, the U.S. officials are expected to step up efforts to fend off the GSOMIA termination and encourage Seoul to more actively explore ways to find common ground between the allies' regional policy initiatives -- Korea's New Southern Policy and the U.S.' Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Stilwell is in Seoul as part of his Asia trip that has included stops to Japan, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand. He will travel to Beijing on Thursday. (Yonhap)