Taking the helm of South Korea's foreign ministry, Minister Kang Kyung-wha vowed in her inaugural speech to act firmly if Pyongyang continues its provocations.
"We should respond sternly to North Korea's provocations, but bring about North Korea's denuclearization by fully utilizing both sanctions and dialogue.
Through this process, we should further develop our Seoul-Washington alliance, the bedrock of our diplomacy and security."
Like Kang said,… strengthening bilateral ties with Washington is her main task, with the Seoul-Washington summit coming up later this month.
South Korea's liberal leader Moon Jae-in recently said he would be willing to hold talks with North Korea if Pyongyang halts its missile and nuclear tests.
Washington, however, remains firm on its stance that denuclearization must come before dialogue.
Fueling concerns of widening differences were comments from the President's special policy adviser Moon Chung-in.
He said on his recent trip to Washington that if North Korea halts its nuclear and missile activities then Seoul could consult with the U.S. about scaling down U.S. strategic assets on the Korean peninsula and the allies' annual joint exercises.
The South Korean presidential office was quick to clarify that the adviser's comments were his personal views and warned him against hurting bilateral ties. But there are already concerns in Washington that Moon Chung-in's comments could be a true reflection of the South Korean President's big picture of North Korea policy.
The U.S. defense system THAAD is one U.S. strategic asset in South Korea and another issue to be dealt with.
Seoul has put the missile battery's installation on hold until a full environmental assessment is carried out, raising speculation in Washington of a possible withdrawal.
With Moon and Trump's first face-to-face meeting likely to set the tone of bilateral relations, the new foreign minister will have to prove her capabilities as a diplomat in fine tuning the agenda and coordinating the summit's follow-up.
Connie Kim, Arirang News.