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SEOUL: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit South Korea next week for “wide-ranging” discussions on issues including nuclear-armed North Korea, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Blinken will arrive in Seoul next Wednesday for a two-day trip, marking his first visit to the country since March 2021.

The top US diplomat will meet with his South Korean counterpart Park Jin for “wide-ranging discussions on the alliance, North Korea issues, economic security and advanced technology, as well as regional and global situations”, the ministry said in a statement.

“Secretary Blinken’s visit is expected to provide an important opportunity to further develop the South Korea-US alliance,” it added.

The visit comes as Seoul and Washington ramp up defence cooperation in the face of a record-breaking series of weapons tests by Pyongyang this year.

Last month, a US nuclear-weapons-capable B-52 bomber made a rare landing in South Korea, less than a week after a South Korean port visit by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

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It also comes as North Korea is moving closer to Russia, fanning Western fears that Pyongyang is providing Moscow with weapons for its war in Ukraine.

The countries’ leaders, Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, in September held a high profile summit in Russia’s far east, followed by a visit to Pyongyang by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov the next month.

Washington and experts have said Pyongyang was seeking a range of military assistance in return, such as satellite technology and upgrading its Soviet-era military equipment.

North Korea has failed twice this year in its bid to put a military spy satellite into orbit.

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