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FM Park, NATO chief discuss North Korea, expanding ties

Jan. 29, 2023 - 18:16 By Choi Si-young
Foreign Minister Park Jin (right) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hold talks at the Foreign Ministry headquarters on Sunday. (Yonhap)

Foreign Minister Park Jin and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Sunday discussed jointly working on curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and bolstering ties between the Asian country and the 30-member military alliance.

The meeting comes as President Yoon Suk Yeol looks to enlist help from European countries in combatting an increasingly belligerent North Korea, which fired off a record number of missiles last year and still shows no sign of dialing down aggression. Yoon was the first South Korean leader to attend a NATO summit in June last year.

“Geopolitical tensions are higher than ever before and like-minded countries sharing such values as democracy and the rule of law should work harder together. I expect closer cooperation as we jointly deal with rising security threats,” Park said.

Park, who expressed gratitude to Stoltenberg for NATO’s support for South Korea’s efforts to contain North Korea, has repeatedly highlighted Seoul’s growing role in leading the international conversation on peace. The latest Indo-Pacific strategy revealed late last year is the public embodiment of that initiative, though critics call the plan overly leaning on the US, South Korea’s biggest ally.

Stoltenberg will meet with Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and President Yoon on Monday, before flying to Japan, another of America’s biggest Asian allies. Washington is increasingly calling for closer ties between Seoul and Tokyo to put checks on Pyongyang, but the two are still at odds over their longtime historical disputes stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.