South Korea needs to focus primarily on reviving the stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea based on close cooperation with the U.S. that's according to Seoul's foreign minister nominee.
In his confirmation hearing Friday at the National Assembly, Chung Eui-yong said he will prioritize efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
"Based on a policy coordinated with the new U.S. administration, I will focus our diplomatic efforts on laying the groundwork for progress toward substantive denuclearization through the early resumption of talks between North Korea and the U.S."
On the issue of Seoul's joint military exercises with Washington slated for March, Chung said they should take into account relations with Pyeongyang and the COVID-19 situation.
He added that large-scale joint drills have implications in a variety of areas, so the authorities are closely discussing the issue with the U.S.
There's been speculation that North Korea might engage in provocations to protest the drills.
Washington is in close consultation with Seoul on these and other issues as it reviews its policies regarding North Korea.
The White House National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, mentioned on Thursday that there will be consultations with South Korea and Japan.
"We are conducting a review of our policy towards North Korea as we speak. President Biden told President Moon last night that that review is underway and that we will consult closely with our allies, particularly the ROK and Japan."
Seoul's foreign ministry issued its 2020 Diplomatic White Paper on Friday, in which it described Japan as the "closest neighbor" in terms of cooperation for peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world.
The previous year's White Paper described Japan only as "a neighbor," apparently due to the souring of ties between Seoul-Tokyo over historical issues.
Observers say this year's choice of words reflects a will on Seoul's part to mend ties in part because of the Biden administration, which thinks highly of trilateral cooperation on North Korea between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
Yoon Jung-min, Arirang News.