US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and South Korea National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo pose for a photograph at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Seoul: US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her South Korean counterpart vowed on Thursday to support efforts to maintain a strong deterrence against North Korea and achieve its denuclearisation.

A joint statement was issued after Pelosi met South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo in Seoul, in which they expressed concerns over the North’s evolving nuclear and missile threats.

“Both sides expressed concerns about the dire situation of North Korea’s growing threat,” the statement said.

“We agreed to support the efforts of the two governments to achieve practical denuclearisation and peace through international cooperation and diplomatic dialogue, based on the strong and extended deterrence against the North.” Pelosi also said at a news conference that she and Kim discussed ways to boost cooperation on regional security and economic and climate issues.

Pelosi arrived in South Korea late on Wednesday following a brief stop in Taiwan, and met US embassy officials in Seoul earlier on Thursday before talks with Kim and other lawmakers.

Later on Thursday, Pelosi plans to visit the Joint Security Area near the heavily fortified inter-Korean border, patrolled together by the American-led UN Command and North Korea, a South Korean official said.

She would be the highest-level US official to visit the area after former President Donald Trump, who met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un there in 2019.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol did not meet Pelosi due to his scheduled vacation this week, but held a 40-minute phone call with her where he promised close cooperation with the US.

Congress for the development of their global strategic alliance, Deputy National Security Adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters.

Yoon also said that Pelosi’s planned visit to the heavily fortified inter-Korean border area will be “a sign of a strong deterrence against North Korea.” The presidential office in a separate press release said Yoon, during the phone call, expressed his hopes to meet Pelosi when he visits the United States to discuss ways to strengthen the alliance between the two countries.

South Korean media speculated that Yoon could be shunning meeting Pelosi in person to avoid antagonising China, after her visit to Taiwan caused outrage in Beijing, which claims the self-governed island as its own.

Choi Young-bum, senior presidential secretary for public relations, however, told reporters that “every decision was made in consideration of our national interest”, and that there will be no change in the position to put the South Korea-US alliance above all.

When asked whether the national interest also included diplomatic relations and the regional situation, Choi declined to comment.