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Top diplomats of S. Korea, U.S. to meet in Seoul this week


The top diplomats of South Korea and the United States will hold talks later this week to discuss the growing hostilities from North Korea and other bilateral issues, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in Seoul on Friday and meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se later in the day, foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters.

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.

"It is very unusual for them to hold talks within 10 days, and I think it demonstrates the two nations' willingness to build a new, cooperative relationship," Cho said. Yun and Kerry will hold a joint press conference after their talks on Friday, Cho said.

Kerry's visit to Seoul comes as Pyongyang sharply raised the ante in the complex security situation on the Korean Peninsula triggered by the North's provocative nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea temporarily suspended operations at the inter-Korean industrial park in the North's border city of Kaesong, posing a direct challenge to the very survival of the complex that has been hailed as the crowning achievement of the 2000 inter-Korean summit.

The North has unleashed a torrent of threats following U.N. sanctions that punished Pyongyang for conducting its third nuclear test on Feb. 12.

South Korea's national security chief Kim Jang-soo said Sunday the North may conduct a mid-range ballistic missile test around Wednesday and defense ministry officials said Pyongyang is ready to carry out another nuclear test.

Seoul's military officials have said Pyongyang moved two mid-range missiles to its east coast and a test launch could happen before the April 15 birthday of the North's founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong-un.