U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held discussions in South Korea on Thursday concerning the increasing military collaboration between North Korea and Russia. Concurrently, he continued his efforts to mediate humanitarian pauses in the Israel-Hamas conflict and explore long-term solutions for Gaza.
Blinken’s visit to South Korea followed a meeting with G7 foreign ministers in Japan. Together, they called for temporary ceasefires in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, aiming to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gaza residents, who have endured a month of airstrikes and ground operations by the Israeli military.
This two-day visit by Blinken marks the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to South Korea in two and a half years and is part of a broader tour of Asia, including a future stop in India. Before Japan, he had been in the Middle East.
Blinken emphasized the United States’ continued focus on the Indo-Pacific region despite other global challenges, underscoring the nation’s capacity to handle multiple issues simultaneously, stating, “The U.S. is capable of ‘running and chewing gum at the same time.'”
During his visit, Blinken met with South Korea’s national security adviser, Cho Tae-Yong, and expressed strong condemnation of “provocative actions” by North Korea on the Korean Peninsula, including the transfer of munitions and other supplies to Russia, according to the U.S. State Department.
Blinken is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and hold talks with Foreign Minister Park Jin later on Thursday.
The United States, along with close allies South Korea and Japan, has jointly criticized the reported movement of arms and military equipment from North Korea to Russia, citing evidence of cargo flows from the secretive state to Russia.
Both North Korea and Russia have denied engaging in arms deals, although their leaders pledged to deepen military cooperation during a meeting in Russia’s Far East in September.
Blinken’s visit precedes a trip by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this weekend and an annual meeting with South Korea’s defense minister on Monday. During this meeting, discussions are expected to center on the enhancement of the “extended deterrence strategy,” which involves the use of U.S. strategic military assets, including nuclear forces, to protect allies against potential attacks.