Biden to visit S. Korea in early December

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to South Korea early next month as part of his Northeast Asia swing, the White House announced Monday.

"The Vice President will travel to Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea the first week of December," it said in a press release. The Republic of Korea is the formal name for South Korea.

In Seoul, he will meet with key leaders to "address bilateral, regional and global challenges, including in particular our close cooperation and coordination to address security threats," according to the White House.

It is the first visit by a U.S. vice president to South Korea since Dick Cheney in 2004.

Biden made a trip to Seoul in 2001 as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry also announced that during his forthcoming visit, the vice president will pay a courtesy call on President Park Geun-hye and hold talks with Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on issues of mutual concern.

Before the upcoming trip to Seoul, meanwhile, Biden is scheduled to visit Tokyo and Beijing.

In Japan, the vice president and the nation's leaders plan to focus on progress towards a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, to seek further momentum on key alliance goals, and discuss a range of regional and global challenges, it added.

Biden's exact itinerary and other details will be released later by his office, the White House said.

His plans for reaching out to Northeast Asia apparently reflect the Obama administration's push for rebalancing Washington's diplomatic energy and military presence toward the Asia-Pacific region.

"Asia is a focal point of this administration's foreign policy -- the pivot that we've discussed frequently -- and the vice president's trip will be in keeping with the intense focus the president has brought to bear on our relationships in the region and on our presence in the region," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing.

He was responding to a question about the timing of Biden's trip and top agenda items.

Obama's diplomacy on Asia suffered a setback in October as he canceled trips to Southeast Asian countries due to a government shutdown.

"I'm sure that the president looks forward to speaking with Vice President Biden specifically about the trip before he goes and then getting a readout upon his return," Carney said.

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