March 17 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the alliance with South Korea is strong and ready to face challenges amid the latest warnings from North Korea, during his first official visit to the country where he also offered condolences for the victims of the Atlanta shooting late Tuesday.
Blinken arrived in Seoul on Wednesday for his first visit with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The Biden Cabinet members are in South Korea for their first ministerial "2+2" meeting in the country, the first security consultative meeting since the Obama administration.
"The U.S.-ROK Alliance is strong, allowing us to work together to meet today's global challenges -- from COVID to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation," Blinken tweeted.
The top U.S. diplomat addressed North Korean human rights abuses and China's crackdown against pro-democracy protesters during his visit with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong. Blinken also mentioned the Atlanta-area shooting at three massage parlors, Yonhap reported.
The U.S. secretary of state said violence has no place in the United States or anywhere else, and expressed his deepest condolences to the families and friends of victims, as well as to the Korean American community. Some of the victims were of Korean ancestry, according to reports.
In Seoul, Austin and Blinken are expected to discuss global partnerships with South Korea and issues of the Korean Peninsula, News 1 reported. On Thursday, the U.S. officials are to meet with President Moon Jae-in. The Special Measures Agreement on cost sharing for U.S. troops also is to be signed jointly tomorrow, reports said.
Blinken condemned North Korean human rights abuses on Wednesday, describing the Kim Jong Un regime as authoritarian and responsible for the widespread abuse of the North Korean population.
South Korea has refrained from enacting a North Korean Human Rights Act that would establish a foundation that keeps track of North Korean abuses. The law passed in 2016.