Senior White House officials were set to hold talks with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul on Tuesday on a possible summit between their leaders and ways to deal with communist North Korea.
The U.S. delegation, led by National Security Council (NSC) director for East Asia Matt Pottinger, was scheduled to meet with Chung Eui-yong, a former ambassador to Geneva who leads a foreign affairs and security advisory group for South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon has yet to name his top national security officials, let alone a new foreign minister.
The new president took office last Wednesday, one day after a rare presidential by-election caused by the March 10 ouster of his conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye over corruption allegations.
Chung and Pottinger were widely expected to discuss schedules for a summit between Moon and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump. The two agreed to seek the earliest opportunity to meet during a telephone conversation last week.
Some say the earliest such opportunity could be the G20 summit slated to be held in Germany on July 7-8.
Many, however, believe Pottinger's trip to Seoul may suggest an earlier meeting.
"We will be following up on the very good conversation that President Trump had with President Moon last week and hopefully we will have more to talk about after that," Pottinger said shortly after arriving in Seoul late Monday.
Moon also named his special envoy to the United States on Monday. Hong Seok-hyun, a former ambassador to the U.S. and former chief of a major local media group, was expected to embark on a U.S. trip as soon as necessary arrangements have been made, Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said earlier.
Pottinger was accompanied by NSC director for Korea Allison Hooker.
The two were also scheduled to meet South Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Jeong-kyu, apparently for discussions on ways to contain Pyongyang.
Their trip also follows the North's launch of an intermediate range ballistic missile Sunday in its latest provocation and in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit such provocations. (Yonhap)