Daily Memo: Who Said What in Washington and Sochi

Seoul and Washington don't agree on what they agreed to, while Minsk and Moscow avoided making any press statements altogether.

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South Korea’s friendly words rankle Washington. Last week, following a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun announced that the two sides had agreed to establish a new “alliance dialogue” aimed at addressing latent frictions in the bilateral partnership. However, the supposed agreement was conspicuously missing from the subsequent readout of the meeting issued by the U.S. State Department, which was reportedly perturbed by Choi’s announcement. On Monday, the State Department said it agreed merely to “positively consider” launching a bilateral dialogue channel with South Korea. If it sounds strange for the United States and a treaty ally that hosts tens of thousands of U.S. troops to be arguing about whether they agreed to talk about the alliance, well, it is. But it speaks to the growing divergence between the two allies over how to confront challenges from North Korea and China, as well as lingering uncertainty in Seoul about whether the Trump administration will make good on periodic threats to vacate the peninsula altogether. In this context, it’s particularly notable that Seoul appears to be backing well away from threats it made last year to scrap a contentious, U.S.-brokered intel-sharing […]

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