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SEOUL — A top South Korean official who specializes in North American affairs will assume a larger role in ongoing South Korean-U.S. talks toward defining their future military relationship, South Korean officials reported Thursday.

Kim Sook, director general of North American affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, took part in Thursday’s talks here between U.S. and South Korean defense officials.

The addition is meant to add diplomacy to the long-term plan called the Security Policy Initiative. The initiative, South Korean officials said Thursday afternoon, is seen as necessary to shrink the U.S. presence on the peninsula while aiming to create a more flexible and technological military as a deterrent to North Korea.

Kim is to work with the defense leaders on “strategic flexibility” issues that involve preparing troops from both nations to respond to humanitarian crises, the Yonhap News Agency reported Thursday afternoon.

The SPI also involves relocating U.S. bases to areas south of Seoul and spending $11 billion over the next three years to increase both sides’ high-tech capabilities. The United States plans to reduce American troops here by 12,500 during the next three years.

Anh Kwang Chan, deputy minister for policy for Korea’s Defense Ministry, and Richard Lawless, the U.S. deputy undersecretary of defense for Asia-Pacific affairs, also attended Thursday’s meeting.

U.S. Forces Korea officials were unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.

The group’s next meeting is planned for April in Hawaii, according to the Defense Ministry.

In other news Thursday, two envoys from the U.S. National Security Council visited Seoul to meet with Korean officials about the stalled six-party talks. Michael Green, the NSC’s senior director for Asia, and William Tobey, the acting senior director for proliferation, met with their counterparts at the Korean National Security Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The visit came as The New York Times reported that the United States had test results showing a 90 percent certainty that North Korea provided almost two tons of uranium hexafluoride to Libya in 2001. Green visited Asian countries this week in part to deliver that news, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.


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