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(LEAD) South Korea, U.S. chief diplomats agree to continue consultations on humanitarian assistance for North Korea

SEOUL, May 13 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s new Foreign Minister Park Jin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have raised concerns about recent COVID-19 outbreaks in South Korea. North and agreed to continue consultations about humanitarian assistance to the hermetic country, during their talks via videoconference this Friday, the South Korean Foreign Ministry reported.

During their first dialogue since the South Korean foreign minister took office on Thursday, Park and Blinken also condemned the North’s recent missile launches and agreed to strengthen bilateral coordination to deal “severely” with North Korean threats, according to the ministry.

The ministry said in a statement that South Korea and the United States agreed to continue consultations, together with the international community, on ways to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea.

According to the ministry, despite their condemnation of Pyongyang’s missile launches, both sides highlighted their countries’ willingness to dialogue with the North and agreed to make efforts to resume “principled and consistent” negotiations on denuclearization with the North. Communist regime.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that six people have died from COVID-19 and more than 18,000 people with fever symptoms were reported nationwide on Thursday.

Despite speculation that North Korea might slow its weapons tests to focus on anti-virus efforts, the secretive regime launched three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea Thursday night, marking the 16th series of shows of force from the North so far this year.

Park and Blinken also discussed preparations for the upcoming summit between South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, and his American counterpart, Joe Biden. Biden is scheduled to arrive here on Friday next week for the summit before visiting Japan, his first Asian tour since his inauguration early last year.

Park urged Blinken to work together for a successful summit, expressing hope that the event would help further raise the level of their “comprehensive strategic” alliance of the two countries.

Blinken noted that Biden’s planned visit, which will be the soonest South Korea-U.S. summit following the inauguration of a South Korean president, underscores the importance Washington attaches to the South and the Indo-Pacific region in general. according to the ministry.

The two sides also shared the view on the growing importance of cooperation in “economic security” areas, including supply chain resilience, and agreed to strengthen their “strategic” communication.

Blinken invited Park to visit the United States at the “earliest possible date” to discuss issues of mutual interest, the ministry said.

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