John Kerry set for North Korea talks in Seoul

South Korea prepared to welcome U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for the first time in more than a year Sunday, ahead of eagerly awaited talks on dealing with the threat posed by North Korea.

Following a stay in China, Kerry was in line to meet President Park Geun-hye before sitting down for a formal discussion with Seoul’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Monday.

Local analysts have been watching the Seoul-Washington relationship closely amid ongoing intrigue over whether South Korea will enhance its missile defense with a controversial U.S. system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).

Recent North Korean provocations have offered political momentum to supporters of the deployment of THAAD – after vocal opposition from some South Korean lawmakers, China, and Russia.

Those concerned parties worry about the prospect of an increasingly powerful American presence on the Korean Peninsula – there are already nearly 30,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

The latest developments in North Korea include its claim last weekend to have successfully test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine.

Intelligence officials in South Korea also revealed this week that the North’s defense minister had been executed last month, becoming another high-profile victim of leader Kim Jong-un’s purge since taking office at the end of 2011.

Kerry began ramping up the pressure on Pyongyang at a press conference in China on Saturday, when he said North Korea’s “destabilizing behaviors are unacceptable.”

But Kerry did also point to Iran as an example of diplomatic success that could inspire a way through stalled negotiations with Pyongyang (Alex Jensen, Anadolu Agency).

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