Hagel due in Korea next week for annual talks

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will travel to South Korea next week for annual defense ministerial talks between the allies, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

It would mark his first trip to the peninsula since taking office in February.

Hagel is scheduled to hold the yearly Security Consultative Meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, during his four-day stay in Seoul from Sunday.

The secretary also plans to preside over the U.S. Forces Korea change of command ceremony.

Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti is scheduled to replace Gen. James Thurman as leader of the 28,500 troops.

This year, South Korea and the U.S. celebrate the 60th anniversary of their alliance dating back to the 1950-53 Korean War.

"He will also visit U.S. and ROK troops to thank them for their service and maintaining a high degree of readiness and cooperation," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a press release.

Hagel will then visit Tokyo to join the "two-plus-two" talks with Japan in which Secretary of State John Kerry will participate, added Little.

Hagel will return to Washington on Friday.

The secretary will be accompanied by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>