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Moon Jae-in, U.S. defense chief concur on North Korea sanctions

By Elizabeth Shim
Moon Jae-in, U.S. defense chief concur on North Korea sanctions
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) speaks with acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (L) during their meeting at the presidential office in Seoul  on Monday. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

June 3 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan agreed Monday that North Korea sanctions should remain in place until "meaningful denuclearization" is achieved.

Shanahan met with Moon at Seoul's presidential Blue House to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang's recent launch of short-range missiles, South Korean television network MBC reported.

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Last week, Shanahan condemned the launches as a violation of United Nations resolutions, breaking with President Donald Trump.

During the meeting, Moon raised the issue of inter-Korea family reunions and the need to supply the impoverished North with humanitarian assistance. The South Korean leader requested close coordination with the United States on the issues, according to MBC.

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Shanahan told Moon he has strong faith in the U.S.-South Korea alliance and that the United States seeks to contribute to a "diplomatic space" for the peaceful resolution of issues on the Korean Peninsula.

The two sides did not discuss North Korea's latest missile launches and also did not bring up the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific strategy, a Blue House official told MBC.

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Shanahan is seeking to pursue the transfer of wartime operational control, or OPCON, to the South Koreans, News 1 reported Monday.

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In a meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo, the two defense officials agreed on the early transfer of OPCON, because "significant progress" has been made for transfer to take place, the Korea Times reported.

The acting U.S. defense secretary also commended Seoul for carrying out the unilateral Ulchi Taegeuk exercises that have replaced the combined U.S.-South Korea drills that take place in the spring, according to News 1.

Since Trump assumed office, the two countries have accelerated talks on OPCON transfer, and the United States has asked South Korea to pay more for maintaining troops on the peninsula.

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Seoul has raised its contribution to 8.2 percent, and the costs are to be renegotiated again in 2020.

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