Kerry-Seoul trip

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, April 3 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Seoul next week as part of his first regional trip since taking office, his department said Wednesday.

North Korea is expected to be high on the agenda, along with bilateral and other global issues, in his meeting with senior South Korean officials there.

Kerry plans to visit Northeast Asia from April 12 to 15, "starting in Seoul on April 12th, in Beijing on April 13th and in Tokyo on April 14th, and then coming home on the 15th," his spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, told reporters.

He is scheduled to leave Washington this weekend for trips to Istanbul, Jerusalem and Ramallah, followed by a visit to London for the G-8 foreign ministers meetings, Nuland added.

A diplomatic source said Kerry is likely to stay in Seoul for only about 24 hours due to his tight schedule.

He plans to meet with President Park Geun-hye, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and other top officials, according to the source.

Kerry had an introductory meeting with Yun on Tuesday here, during which they reaffirmed a close alliance between the two nations against North Korea's military threats.

South Korean media are also paying attention to protracted discussions on Seoul's plan to expand its peaceful nuclear activities.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Yun, Kerry said they had a very good discussion about revising a pact on bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation, set to expire in March next year.

"We've exchanged some ideas, and I will follow up on those when I visit Seoul in about a week," the secretary said.

He expressed hope that Seoul and Washington will reach a deal before the South Korean president's trip here in early May.

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