Mattis to visit Seoul to discuss Korean Peninsula situation

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Seoul, June 21 (IANS) US Defence Secretary James Mattis will travel to Seoul next week to meet his South Korean counterpart and analyze the current military situation on the Korean Peninsula amid the ongoing rapprochement with North Korea.

The meeting between Mattis and Song Young-moo is scheduled for June 28, a spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of National Defence told Efe news.

Both officials will discuss “various ways related to follow-up measures to North Korea-US (summit) talks and South-North Korea relations,” another spokesperson for the ministry Choi Hyun-soo said.

The temporary suspension of the annual US-South Korea joint military manoeuvres in August could also be addressed, which will help facilitate future discussions with Pyongyang and its denuclearization as agreed in the US-North Korea summit on June 12 in Singapore.

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The suspension of these military drills raises some concerns over the preparedness of the US and South Korean troops in the future.

The allies are also scheduled to negotiate next week on the financial proportion that each country contributes to the maintenance of the 28,500 US soldiers in South Korea, which US President Donald Trump said is very expensive for the US.

According to the latest agreement between the two countries, Seoul has paid some half of the total cost or $865 million for 2018.

Meanwhile, Mattis on Wednesday said he was unaware of any steps taken by North Korea towards dismantling its nuclear weapons programme since the Singapore summit and does not expect any in the immediate future.

Mattis was speaking to reporters at the Pentagon amid confusion over the diplomatic follow-up to the Trump and Kim meeting.

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Asked if he could “put his finger on” any steps Pyongyang had taken to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme, Mattis said: “No, I’m not aware of that.”

–IANS

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