Deputy Secretary Blinken’s Recent Visit to Seoul

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken was just here in Seoul for consultations and meetings on a variety of regional and global issues.  This visit to Korea was his fourth visit since being appointed Deputy Secretary in early 2015, demonstrating the importance of the Alliance to our Washington policy makers.

It was great to see him, not only professionally, but personally, since we are old friends from our days together working at the White House and in the Senate, when he was the Democratic Staff Director for the Foreign Relations Committee.  The Deputy Secretary’s visit was also a great chance to follow up on discussions that took place during President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Abe’s recent visits to the U.S. for the Nuclear Security Summit. 

Deputy Secretary of State Blinken, Vice Foreign Minister Lim, and Vice Foreign Minister Saiki during a press conference following their meeting of the 3rd round of Deputy-level trilateral consultations in Seoul (AP photo)

The main purpose of the trip was to hold a trilateral meeting with our ROK and Japanese counterparts, including Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki and Ambassador to South Korea Koro Bessho, among others.  Discussions here centered on our joint response to provocations from the DPRK, the importance of being consistent and firm in the implementation of sanctions, and general cooperation among like-minded partners on regional security.  We also talked about expanding our trilateral cooperation into global areas by coordinating development policies, increasing women’s empowerment, and even working together to cure cancer. 

Deputy Secretary Blinken also had bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Yun and Vice Foreign Minister Lim.  As usual, the strong U.S.-ROK Alliance is not only tackling the immediate and ever-present threat from North Korea, but also thinking towards the future and cooperating on global issues.

With Deputy Secretary Blinken at MOFA (featured in a local newspaper)

Deputy Director of National Security Cho Tae-yong made time in his busy schedule to meet with us for a high-level bilateral dialogue on rolling back the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula by increasing pressure on the North Korean regime through sanctions and other measures.  Our goals are completely aligned.  This is a critically important relationship, which we value greatly, particularly in regard to our shared commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

These meetings with our partners continued to highlight our shared values and dedication to democracy.  However, we also discovered something else we all share -- a love of baseball!  We began comparing the American, Korean, and Japanese major leagues, and I discovered that Vice Foreign Minister Lim’s wife is an even bigger Doosan fan than I am!  As we all worked in Washington at some point or another in our careers in various capacities, we also ended up chatting about springtime in D.C. and about our favorite spots around the city.

A highlight of the Deputy Secretary’s visit was dinner at a wonderful restaurant, Seokparang, where, I was told, the last King of the Joseon dynasty’s wife was born.  It is a traditional hanok (Korean house) which now operates as a restaurant.  The food was excellent and the Deputy Secretary commented on how much he enjoys visiting Korea for the food.

With Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam at Seokparang (MOFA photo)

Deputy Secretary Blinken enjoying Samgyetang at Tosokchon when he made his first official visit to Korea in February 2015

Once again, during the Deputy Secretary’s visit, our hosts here in the ROK demonstrated their warm hospitality and the esteem in which they hold our Alliance.  For the Deputy Secretary’s next visit, we will have to find time for him to take in a baseball game!  

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