A top South Korean presidential official said Friday that he did not receive any request from the United States to send troops to protect strategically vital waters off Iran.
Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of Cheong Wa Dae’s National Security Office, was asked by reporters if he received such a request during his meeting earlier in the day with US Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman.
“No, there was no such discussion,” Kim said, adding that he raised the issue of the Strait of Hormuz in order to hear the US perspective and plans.
He declined to say how the US side responded.
The US has been asking its allies to join a military coalition to ensure freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran.
According to Kim’s aides, there was a “standard exchange of views” regarding the Strait of Hormuz as part of discussions on the Middle East, but no mention of any troop deployment.
Kim has been in Washington since Wednesday to meet with US officials over an escalating trade row between South Korea and Japan.
He told reporters earlier that the US had offered to hold trilateral high-level talks to help resolve the dispute, but that Japan had yet to respond.
The meeting would have been held during a trip to Asia by US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell, which took him to Japan this week. Stilwell is due to visit Seoul Tuesday.
“Japan is being passive, so it’s more likely that it won’t happen, don’t you think?” Kim said.
Last week, Japan announced toughened controls on exports of key high-tech materials to South Korea. Some Japanese officials also questioned Seoul’s compliance with U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea, saying the South may have leaked sensitive industrial materials to the North.
Seoul has denounced the measures as political retaliation for a court ruling that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
On Friday, Cheong Wa Dae demanded that Tokyo agree to have an international panel look into both countries’ handling of the strategic materials.
“We explained to the US side that we haven’t exported any strategic materials imported from Japan to the North,” Kim said.
He added that all of the US officials and members of Congress he met with expressed a desire for the two US allies to resolve the dispute in a “constructive” manner in the face of various shared challenges.
Among them were acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“The US has concerns, too,” Kim said. “This isn’t just an economic issue but it also has implications for diplomacy and national security, so it’s complicated. I think the US also wants to see it quickly resolved.”
Commenting on the expected resumption of denuclearization negotiations between the US and North Korea, the official expressed uncertainty that they will be held within the month as planned.
“I think we have to wait and see,” he said. “I think they’re waiting to hear back from the North.”