Visiting top US diplomat seeks meetings with S. Korean Trade Ministry, presidential candidates

Posted on : 2021-11-10 16:24 KST Modified on : 2021-11-10 16:24 KST
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink appears to be trying to gauge the presidential contenders’ intended policy toward the US and North Korea
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink (AFP/Yonhap News)
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink (AFP/Yonhap News)

A senior American diplomat visiting South Korea on Wednesday is reportedly arranging meetings not only with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) but also with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). He’s also trying to set up meetings with presidential nominees from both major parties, a move that has piqued interest.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will have a discussion with Yeo Seung-bae, deputy minister for political affairs at MOFA, on Thursday morning, with lunch to follow.

Seeing as this is Kritenbrink’s first trip to Korea since he assumed the position in September, this meeting was reportedly arranged to introduce him to his South Korean counterpart. He’s reportedly also planning to meet First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Choi Jong-kun that afternoon.

As assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Kritenbrink oversees practical matters related to countries including Korea, China and Japan. Deliberations during these meetings will likely cover a wide range of topics, including not only Korea and the US’ bilateral relationship but also the Korean Peninsula and pressing issues in the region and the world at large.

One of the more notable aspects of Kritenbrink’s three-day visit to Korea is his economic diplomacy. His itinerary largely consists of meetings with the deputy foreign minister and officials from the Office of Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs. American officials in Kritenbrink’s position have occasionally made contact with the Ministry of Unification when necessary, but it’s rare for them to visit MOTIE or have a separate meeting with MOFA’s foreign economic policy coordinator.

According to MOFA, it was the Americans who suggested Kritenbrink’s itinerary. “The horizon of bilateral cooperation at the US State Department has broadened since the South Korea-US summit in May,” a MOFA official said.

The official added that Kritenbrink and his Korean counterparts will discuss not only follow-up measures to the summit but also a range of economic issues, including this year’s South Korea-US Senior Economic Dialogue, which will be held next month. The discussions will presumably focus on an economic approach to national security, including the Biden administration’s push for American friends and allies to restructure their supply chains in line with the US’ efforts to contain China.

Kritenbrink also hopes to meet with the presidential nominees from Korea’s two major parties while he’s in the country. He’s reportedly trying to set up a meeting with Lee Jae-myung, nominee for the Democratic Party, on Thursday afternoon and with Yoon Seok-youl, nominee for the People Power Party, on Friday. He appears to be trying to gauge their intended policy toward the US and North Korea.

When Joseph Yoon, then special representative for North Korean policy at the US State Department, visited South Korea in March 2017, shortly before the presidential election, he reached out to some presidential nominees and campaign officials in addition to his deliberations with government officials.

Kritenbrink’s trip to Korea follows a visit to Japan on Nov. 7-10; he plans to return to the US on Friday.

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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