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U.S., South Korea to Confer on North, Missile Pact

The United States and South Korea are slated in the coming days to discuss at the senior-level a new ballistic missile agreement and strategies for handling North Korea, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

As part of the two allies' yearly Security Consultive Meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is to host his South Korean opposite, Kim Kwan-jin, for talks next Wednesday in the U.S. capital. The nations' top-ranking military officers, Martin Dempsey and Jung Seung-jo, are scheduled to confer one day earlier.

On the table for discussion is improving efforts to counter North Korean aggression, and implementation of a new bilateral accord that permits the South to nearly triple the range of domestically produced ballistic missiles.

The countries' second-highest ranking diplomats, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young, on Tuesday discussed options for ensuring stability on the Korean Peninsula, especially in the build-up to presidential voting in the United States in November and in South Korea the following month, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

 "The two countries agreed to maintain common approaches to the North and give consistent messages to it to prevent its possible provocation at a time of leadership changes," said an anonymous South Korean foreign relations official who participated in the meeting.

Burns also addressed U.S. concerns that mounting tension between South Korea and Japan over a contested chain of islets could undermine trilateral efforts to contain North Korea.

"Stressing that the trilateral relationship among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo is crucial to deter North Korea, Burns expressed concerns over recent unstable situations in Northeast Asia caused by territorial and other sensitive issues, and said he hopes to bring the temperature of the region down through dialogue," the Foreign Ministry official said.

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