A widely-anticipated missile test by North Korea and how to respond to the North's threats are expected to be high on the agenda during talks this week between South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a Seoul official said Thursday.
Kerry will arrive in Seoul on Friday for bilateral talks with Yun, flying in from London after attending a meeting of the top diplomats from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.
Then, Kerry will wrap-up his 10-day overseas trip with visits to China and Japan.
Tensions are sky-high on the Korean Peninsula amid indications that North Korea is ready to launch at least one mid-range ballistic missile in coming days.
"On the agenda for their talks would be the topics related to the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, how to cope with North Korea's threats and how to deter the North's provocations," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said.
North Korea has stepped up its fiery rhetoric following the latest U.N. sanctions that punished Pyongyang for conducting its third nuclear test in February.
Since then, North Korea has declared a "state of war" against South Korea, announced that it would restart a mothballed plutonium-producing reactor, threatened to carry out a nuclear attack against the U.S. and suspended operations at the inter-Korean industrial park.
It will be the second bilateral talks between Yun and Kerry this month.
They held talks in Washington on April 2 and Kerry reaffirmed Washington's commitment to protecting South Korea in the face of the North's increasingly bellicose threats.
Cho said, "It is very rare for the two ministers to consecutively hold talks only in ten days time."
"It can be seen as an expression of the willingness of the two governments to forge a new cooperative relationship between the two."
Other agenda will include a revision of a bilateral civilian nuclear accord and preparations for a May summit between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama, Cho said.
Seoul and Washington are preparing to resume formal negotiations this month aimed at revising the bilateral civilian nuclear accord.
The 1974 agreement bans Seoul from reprocessing spent fuel because it could yield plutonium that could be used to build atomic bombs.
Seoul wants Washington to allow it to use a proliferation-resistant technology for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent atomic fuel, but Washington has been reluctant to do so apparently because of proliferation concerns.
Before talks with Yun, Kerry will meet with a group of U.S. soldiers stationed in South Korea, ministry officials said.
On Friday night, Kerry is scheduled to make a brief speech at a meeting organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea. He will fly to China on Saturday morning.