ROK-U.S. News

Yonhap – Pentagon chief to visit S. Korea this week for annual security talks

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Seoul this week for annual defense talks with his South Korean counterpart on the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON), North Korean threats, cybersecurity and other issues, Seoul officials have said.

Austin is set to depart for South Korea on Tuesday (Washington time) to attend the 53rd Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) slated for Thursday. It marks the first SCM between Seoul’s Defense Minister Suh Wook and Austin since the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in January.

The SCM comes as Seoul and Washington have been stepping up coordination to resume nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, despite indications of Pyongyang doubling down on its nuclear and missile programs.

High on the agenda is the conditions-based wartime OPCON transition, after which a four-star South Korean general is to lead the allies’ combined forces during wartime. Currently, the U.S. has the wartime OPCON, while the South has the peacetime OPCON.

The two sides are expected to discuss when and how they will conduct the full operational capability (FOC) test of the three-stage program designed to verify South Korea’s capabilities required for the OPCON handover.

In 2019, the allies completed the initial operational capability (IOC) test. But they have yet to complete the FOC test, the second part of the verification program. The full mission capability (FMC) test is the last part of the program.

The allies’ discussions related to the FOC test have been proceeding in a “very amicable” atmosphere, a Seoul official said last week — remarks that raised hopes for progress in related consultations between the two sides.

Suh and Austin also plan to discuss ways to beef up cybersecurity cooperation, including the resumption of the “Cyber Cooperation Working Group” — an apparatus that the allies agreed to form years ago but have yet to fully activate due to administrative and other issues.

Space cooperation is another key topic, as Washington has sought to rally its allies and partners to promote the secure, sustainable use of outer space amid signs of an arms race in the new security domain.

In addition, the minister and the secretary plan to discuss ways to back up ongoing diplomacy to encourage Pyongyang’s return to dialogue and bring the stalled efforts for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula back on track.

At the SCM, the two sides are also expected to touch on the ongoing process of returning U.S. military bases at the Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul to ensure Seoul’s mega project to build a national park there can proceed as planned.

In a press release last week, the Pentagon said that at the SCM, “both sides are expected to pledge to continue to develop the alliance — the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia — in a mutually reinforcing and future-oriented manner.”

Aside from Suh and Austin, the SCM will also be attended by the allies’ top defense officials, including Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Won In-choul and his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Mark Milley, as well as Adm. John C. Aquilino, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Paul LaCamera, the chief of the U.S. Forces Korea.

On the eve of the SCM, Gen. Won and Gen. Milley, will also meet for the 46th Military Committee Meeting to discuss North Korea-related security situations and the defense posture of the allied forces.

Also on Wednesday, Suh and Austin are to attend an annual alliance dinner session hosted by the Korea-U.S. Alliance Foundation and the Korea Defense Veterans Association.

In this March 17, 2021, file photo, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, pose for a photo prior to their talks at the defense ministry in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

In this March 17, 2021, file photo, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook (R) and his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, pose for a photo prior to their talks at the defense ministry in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – UNC says commander OKs expansion of visitation to Panmunjom

SEOUL, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) — The U.S.-led U.N. Command (UNC) said Monday Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera has approved the expansion of visitation to the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, some four months after tours to the site were suspended due to COVID-19.

In a Facebook post, the UNC said it will soon finalize coordination with the South Korean government over when to restart the tours to Panmunjom, or the Joint Security Area (JSA), in the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

“In conjunction with the ROK ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan, the #UNC Commander has authorized the expansion of visitation to the #JointSecurityArea,” the command said.

“We will soon finalize coordination with our ROK government teammates to announce when public tours will resume. Stay tuned!” it added, referring to South Korea by its official name, Republic of Korea.

Since this month, South Korea has implemented a phased scheme for a gradual return to normal life, which entails eased social-distancing rules.

In the file photo taken April 19, 2018, South Korean and U.S. soldiers stand guard at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, ahead of the historic inter-Korean summit talks at the village on April 27. (Yonhap)

In the file photo taken April 19, 2018, South Korean and U.S. soldiers stand guard at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom, north of Seoul, ahead of the historic inter-Korean summit talks at the village on April 27. (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – S. Korea to keep monitoring N. Korean military’s moves: ministry

By Chae Yun-hwan

SEOUL, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) — The South Korean government reacted cautiously to a report of North Korea’s military having staged an “artillery fire competition,” saying it will keep a close watch on related situations.

“Rather than prejudging North Korea’s intentions, the government will closely monitor relevant moves,” the unification ministry’s spokesperson Lee Jong-joo told reporters when asked about the issue.

The previous day, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported the training event had been held with the participation of “artillery sub-units under mechanized troops at all levels” of the Korean People’s Army (KPA).

Top military generals made an on-site inspection of the competition, the KCNA said, but the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, was not mentioned in its report, which suggested Kim was not present.

The ministry official pointed out the North has staged various types of military drills, including such artillery fire contests and special forces’ strike competitions.

The North’s leader had often inspected the trainings in person, but there has been no report by Pyongyang’s state-controlled media this year that he did so, Lee noted.

The South’s defense ministry said, separately, it has no formal statement to issue in connection with the latest report of the North’s military exercise.

The unification ministry, meanwhile, said there is no problem in daily inter-Korean contact through their hotlines

The two Koreas have conducted regular phone conversations everyday at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. since the lines were restored on Oct. 4, according to the spokesperson.

An artillery fire competition is underway on Nov. 6, 2021, in this photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

An artillery fire competition is underway on Nov. 6, 2021, in this photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Talk of possible shift in U.S. nuke policy rekindles questions over America’s security assurances for allies

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) — Talk of the United States’ possible policy shift to reduce its use of nuclear arms under the Joe Biden administration is raising anew consequential questions over the future of America’s security commitments to South Korea and other allies, analysts said Monday.

With its nuclear posture review under way, the Biden team has reportedly been considering a “no-first-use” declaration, which would rule out the possibility of the U.S. launching a preemptive nuclear strike seen as a formidable deterrent against potential adversaries.

Even if Washington does not go as far as to embrace the no-first-use approach, it could opt for a “sole purpose” policy that would define a strictly limited set of extreme circumstances for the use of nuclear arms, such as retaliation after a nuclear attack, observers said.

This photo, released by Reuters on Oct 31, 2021, shows U.S President Joe Biden speaking during a press conference during the Group of 20 summit in Rome, Italy. (Yonhap)

This photo, released by Reuters on Oct 31, 2021, shows U.S President Joe Biden speaking during a press conference during the Group of 20 summit in Rome, Italy. (Yonhap)

U.S. allies have been calling for the strengthening of America’s security assurances — or extended deterrence — in the face of a nuclear-ambitious North Korea, an increasingly assertive China and a resurgent Russia.

Their doubts on America’s security commitments have lingered, as they saw former U.S. President Donald Trump trumpeting his “America first” credo and the Western-backed Afghan government collapsing hopelessly following the U.S. troop withdrawal.

“What’s worrisome for allies is that extended deterrence is a commitment that is not binding, and that there hasn’t been an historical experience of the allies having been protected by the U.S. nuclear umbrella,” Park Won-gon, a North Korean studies professor of Ewha Womans University, said.

“Should the U.S. renounce the option of preemptive strike or shift to the sole purpose policy, this would suggest that the level of its security commitments to allies would weaken evidently compared with the existing ones,” he added.

The Biden administration has been conducting the nuclear posture review — a regular process that would set the direction of America’s overall policy on nuclear weapons. An updated Nuclear Policy Review (NPR) document is due out early next year.

The possibility of a U.S. policy shift has unnerved conservatives in South Korea, as North Korea has steadily focused on the development of operational nuclear and missile forces as evidenced by the test-firing last month of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Opponents of the policy change argue that the U.S. should keep its stance of strategic ambiguity over its first-use option to ensure that potential enemies dare not think about initiating a war that would cause unacceptable costs on their part.

Commenting on Washington’s policy review, an official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said Sunday that the U.S.’ commitment to the provision of extended deterrence remains “solid” — remarks apparently aimed at allaying worries about America’s possible policy change.

Extended deterrence refers to the U.S.’ commitment to mobilizing a full range of its military capabilities, nuclear and conventional, to defend its non-nuclear allies, like South Korea. It includes the so-called nuclear umbrella.

Biden’s interim national security strategic guidance, published in March, already hinted at a future policy shift. According to the document, the U.S. will take steps to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy,” though the U.S. would ensure its strategic nuclear deterrent remains “safe, secure and effective.”

Such a stance drew a contrast with the 2018 NPR that signaled a stronger nuclear policy stance with the development of “low-yield” nuclear warheads.

Low-yield nuclear arms will lower the psychological threshold for the use of nuclear arms, as their use will lead to much less damage in a limited battle zone than full-scale nuclear exchanges involving high-yield strategic bombs, experts said.

Some observers said that concerns about a U.S. policy change may be excessive, given that no matter what policy name the Biden government chooses, it would be “declaratory” during his term.

“Whether that is part of the Department of Defense review or not, it is America’s declaratory policy during his stint in the White House,” Patrick M. Cronin, chair for Asia-Pacific Security at the U.S.-based Hudson Institute, said.

“I don’t think that undermines deterrence from aggression, because an adversary who uses any force will have to fear conventional military reprisal,” he added.

Going forward, Washington’s policy review is expected to be a subject of intense consultations with its allies. The Financial Times reported Saturday that U.S. allies, including Britain, France and Japan, have been lobbying Biden not to alter the U.S. nuclear policy.

South Korea is expected to discuss the issue with the U.S. during various two-way high-level talks, including the Security Consultative Meeting, the annual defense ministerial talks slated to take place in Seoul early next month.

“Now at issue is how the U.S. would persuade allies to back its policy,” Kim Tae-hyung, a professor of international politics at Soongsil University, said. “Over the next few months before the NPR comes out, there would be intense debates about the sole purpose, no-first-use or other related issues among the allies as well as among U.S. policymakers.”

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Article: https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211101009100325?section=national/defense

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Yonhap – S. Korea’s defense minister holds talks with U.S. Navy chief on regional security, alliance

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s Defense Minister Suh Wook held talks with the visiting U.S. secretary of the Navy in Seoul on Thursday to discuss security on the Korean Peninsula, the bilateral alliance and other issues, his ministry said.

The talks between Suh and Secretary Carlos Del Toro came as Seoul and Washington seek to ensure their defense readiness, following a recent series of North Korean missile launches, and advance joint efforts to resume dialogue with Pyongyang.

During the meeting, Del Toro expressed expectation that the U.S. and South Korea will closely work together to ensure stability and prosperity in Northeast Asia and maintain the international order in the Indo-Pacific region, the ministry said.

The secretary also voiced hope that close cooperation between the Navies and Marine Corps of the two countries will help further develop the alliance.

Suh used the meeting to congratulate Del Toro on his inauguration in August and again express Seoul’s appreciation for Washington’s support for its mission earlier this year to evacuate nearly 400 Afghan co-workers and family members to South Korea.

Del Toro was in Seoul as part of his first overseas trip since he took office. The trip includes visits to Japan and other parts of the Indo-Pacific region.

South Korea's Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro pose for a photo as they meet for talks at the defense ministry in Seoul on Oct. 28, 2021, in this photo released by Suh's office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Defense Minister Suh Wook (L) and U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro pose for a photo as they meet for talks at the defense ministry in Seoul on Oct. 28, 2021, in this photo released by Suh’s office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Yonhap – Top security official says hard to predict another inter-Korean summit

SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Yonhap) — President Moon Jae-in’s security adviser said Tuesday it is difficult to predict whether another summit between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can take place, citing “many uncertainties.”

Suh Hoon, director of the National Security Office at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, made the remarks during a parliamentary audit, amid speculation Moon is pushing for another inter-Korean summit to help salvage his drive for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“We have just restored inter-Korean communication lines,” Suh said. “Due to many uncertainties, it is difficult to make a prediction.”

This file photo, released Dec. 16, 2020, by the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, shows Suh Hoon, director of the National Security Office, presiding over a security meeting. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This file photo, released Dec. 16, 2020, by the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, shows Suh Hoon, director of the National Security Office, presiding over a security meeting. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

He was referring to the restoration of inter-Korean communication lines earlier this month in what is seen as an initial, symbolic step for cross-border reconciliation.

Suh stressed the government would not push for a summit as a “political event,” as critics have said the Moon administration may be seeking to create a mood for peace ahead of the presidential election slated for March.

During the session, Suh said it is difficult to “conclusively” say whether North Korea can mount nuclear warheads on its short-range missiles amid security concerns triggered by a recent series of Pyongyang’s missile tests.

The top security official also stressed South Korea’s military has “sufficient” capabilities to respond to a series of new North Korean missiles under development.

The North has recently fired a series of missiles, including a submarine-launched ballistic missile earlier this month and a new hypersonic missile late last month — a show of force that raised questions of whether the South is ready to counter the evolving threats.

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Yonhap – Ex-USFK chief stresses solidarity in S. Korea-U.S. alliance amid lingering N.K. threats

SEOUL, Oct. 23 (Yonhap) — Former U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) chief Curtis Scaparrotti has stressed the importance of solidarity between the militaries of South Korea and the United States in the face of continued North Korean threats, an organization dedicated to promoting the alliance said Saturday.

Scaparrotti, who led the USFK from 2013-2016, delivered a lecture on the long-standing alliance Friday, according to the Korea Chapter of the Korea Defense Veterans Association, as tensions resurfaced following the North’s recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

“The former commander said the South Korea-U.S. alliance is a linchpin for security and prosperity in Northeast Asia, and that it is very crucial to solidify the bond between the militaries of South Korea and the U.S. in order to strengthen the alliance,” the association said in a press release.

Scaparrotti also underscored that the defense posture of the allied forces should remain firm under any circumstances to deter war and safeguard peace on the Korean Peninsula, it added.

This photo, released by the Korea Chapter of the Korea Defense Veterans Association, shows former U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) chief Curtis Scaparrotti (L) and Lee Seo-young, president of the chapter, talking during a dinner gathering at a hotel in Seoul on Oct. 22, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This photo, released by the Korea Chapter of the Korea Defense Veterans Association, shows former U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) chief Curtis Scaparrotti (L) and Lee Seo-young, president of the chapter, talking during a dinner gathering at a hotel in Seoul on Oct. 22, 2021. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

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Military Times – US urges North Korea to stop missile tests and return to talks

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, right, and South Korea’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh Kyu-duk attend a briefing after their meeting at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, Pool)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday urged North Korea to refrain from additional missile tests and resume nuclear diplomacy, days after the North fired off its first underwater-launched ballistic missile in two years.

Sung Kim, the U.S. envoy on North Korea, spoke after meeting with South Korean officials to discuss North Korea’s recent missile tests while nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang remain stalled.

“We call on the DPRK to cease these provocations and other destabilizing activities, and instead, engage in dialogue,” Kim told reporters, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We remain ready to meet with the DPRK without preconditions and we have made clear that the United States harbors no hostile intent towards the DPRK,” he said.

Last Tuesday, North Korea fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine in its fifth round of weapons tests in recent weeks.

South Korean officials said the submarine-fired missile appeared to be in an early stage of development. That marked the North’s first underwater-launched test since October 2019, and the most high-profile one since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Missiles fired from submarines are harder to detect in advance and would provide North Korea with a secondary, retaliatory attack capability.

Tuesday’s launch violates multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban any activity by North Korea in the area of ballistic missiles. Kim said the test poses a threat to the international community and is “concerning and counterproductive” to efforts to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim’s South Korean counterpart, Noh Kyu-duk, said the two had an “in-depth” discussion on Seoul’s push for a symbolic declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War as a way to bring peace. Noh said he and Kim also reaffirmed that North Korea’s issues of concern can be discussed once talks are restarted.

The U.S.-led talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear program have been largely stalled since early 2019, when a summit between then-President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un collapsed due to disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it’s ready to meet North Korea “anywhere and at any time” without preconditions. But North Korea says a return to talks is conditional on the U.S. dropping what it calls hostile policy, an apparent reference to the sanctions and regular military drills between Washington and Seoul.

Before the submarine missile launch, North Korea had also tested several other new weapons systems over a six-week period, including its longest-range cruise missile and a hypersonic missile currently under development.

Those weapons potentially put U.S. allies South Korea and Japan within striking range. Some experts say North Korea may also in coming weeks test a missile that could reach the American homeland in order to maximize its pressure campaign on the United States.


Article: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/2021/10/24/us-urges-north-korea-to-stop-missile-tests-and-return-to-talks/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EBB%2010.25.2021&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

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KDVA Salutes General (Ret.) Colin Powell – 10.18.2021

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Yonhap – N. Korea fires what seems to be SLBM toward East Sea: S. Korea

By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) — North Korea fired what appears to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) toward the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, in yet another setback to Seoul’s drive for peace with Pyongyang.

The short-range missile was launched from waters east of Sinpo, a city on the North’s east coast, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The launch was detected at 10:17 a.m., it said.

The missile traveled about 590 kilometers at a top altitude of around 60 km, an informed source said, noting the possibility that the North might have used a submarine as a launch platform this time.

The North previously conducted an SLBM test in 2015 and 2019. The South’s military believes that it used a barge rather than a submarine during the past tests.

Officials said that Tuesday’s launch came after South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities had detected signs of a possible weapons test near Sinpo, where the North has been pushing to build a 3,200-ton submarine capable of SLBM operations.

“The intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are currently conducting a thorough analysis regarding additional details on the missile,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.

The North’s latest missile test marks its eighth known projectile launch this year. It previously fired a new hypersonic missile, called the Hwasong-8, on Sept. 28.

This file photo, released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency, shows a missile launch. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

This file photo, released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, shows a missile launch. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command condemned the missile launch, calling on the North to refrain from “any further destabilizing acts.”

“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, territory, or that of our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation,” the command said in a statement posted on its website.

“The U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK and Japan remains ironclad,” it added, referring to South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

China called for concerned countries to exert “restraint,” saying the situation on the Korean Peninsula stands at a critical period.

“Each relevant country should think from a broad perspective, maintain restraint and make efforts to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesperson, told a regular press briefing.

North Korea watchers cited a possibility that a new, small-sized SLBM, capable of striking targets in the South or Japan, might have been fired from a 2,000-ton submarine on Tuesday. The North displayed a mini-SLBM at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang last week.

“If you look at the launch site and the missile details, the possibility is that it could be a new-type, small SLBM developed with an intention to attack vulnerable areas in the South, such as the rear and sides,” Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense Security Forum, said.

In recent years, Pyongyang has boasted its development of various SLBMs, including the “Pukguksong-4ㅅ” and the “Pukguksong-5ㅅ,” which were unveiled during military parades in October last year and January, respectively.

The North has been pushing for the SLBM, which experts say would potentially serve as a key nuclear delivery vehicle designed to keep hostile forces at bay during wartime.

The launch came as the top nuclear envoys of the South, the U.S. and Japan are in Washington to discuss joint efforts to bring the North back to dialogue through humanitarian aid and other incentives.

Pyongyang’s continued saber-rattling tempered cautious optimism that has emerged since the reactivation of inter-Korean communication channels earlier this month.

In Washington on Tuesday, Seoul’s top nuclear envoy, Noh Kyu-duk, and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, plan to meet trilaterally to discuss a joint strategy on the North.

Shortly after the North’s presumed test of an SLBM, Noh and Kim held telephone talks and exchanged relevant information, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

They will discuss plans to bring the North back to the negotiating table during the planned trilateral talks, according to the ministry.

On Monday, Noh and Kim met bilaterally and discussed President Moon Jae-in’s recent proposal for the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which Seoul believes is an effective measure to build confidence with Pyongyang.

The U.S. envoy plans to visit Seoul later this week to further discuss diplomacy toward the North.

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