U.S. deputy secretary to visit S. Korea next week

SEOUL, Jan. 16 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns plans to visit South Korea next week to discuss with his counterparts here issues of mutual interest including the North Korea situation, Seoul's foreign ministry said Thursday.

During his two-day stay starting next Monday, Burns is scheduled to meet First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun for "in-depth talks on how to develop bilateral ties and on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," among other issues, the ministry said.

It is part of his week-long trip to Northeast Asia, which will also take him to China and Japan, according to the ministry.

The scheduled meeting came amid renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Ending its rare pacifist gesture to South Korea, the communist North on Wednesday warned of an "unimaginable holocaust" in response to Seoul's upcoming joint military exercises with Washington.

Seoul and Washington say the routine annual exercises are defensive in nature.

The deputy secretary is also expected to play "a certain role" in soothing tensions in the Northeast Asian region sparked particularly by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's controversial visit to the war shrine of Yasukuni, which honors Class A war criminals from World War II, according to diplomatic sources here.

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