SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Tuesday called for enhanced ties with the United States ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who expressed skepticism of Washington's alliances and trade deals with South Korea and other partners while campaigning.
During a Cabinet meeting, Hwang highlighted the role of the Korea-U.S. military alliance in ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond, and instructed the government to further develop economic, diplomatic and military cooperation through close communication with the Trump administration. Trump is set to take office on Friday (Washington time).
"As the South Korea-U.S. alliance accounts for a great proportion in the maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and our external relations, (we) have to continuously maintain and strengthen the relationship without wavering even a bit," Hwang said.
South Korea's Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (R) speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the central government complex in Seoul on Jan. 17, 2017. (Yonhap)
Hwang also ordered top policymakers to "preemptively" prepare for potential changes in U.S. policies that could arise after the swearing-in of the Republican, and seek sufficient policy consultations with their U.S. counterparts.
Trump's election last year has triggered concerns about major shifts in bilateral ties.
The real-estate tycoon had let loose a series of controversial campaign remarks that questioned the economic value of regional alliances and disparaged the South Korea-U.S. free trade pact as a "job-killing" deal.
The acting president also directed the South Korean military to keep close tabs on the North's military movements and be ready to respond to any type of provocations, noting Pyongyang often engaged in provocative acts during past periods of government change in Washington.
The communist state has recently cranked up its provocative rhetoric, saying it is close to mastering the technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Hwang also urged continued efforts to create jobs and revitalize the economy.
"The basis for the stabilization of people's livelihoods is, after all, job creation," he said. "I urge all government ministries and agencies, including the labor ministry, to put top priority on addressing job-related issues."
Yoo, Heui-Jin firstname.lastname@example.org
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