US defence chief heads to Seoul, Tokyo to discuss future of alliances
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel flies on Saturday to South Korea and Japan to affirm military ties that are entering a new chapter in the face of North Korea's threats and China's growing power.
It will be Mr Hagel's third visit to the region as Pentagon chief, and comes as Washington presses ahead with its strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region despite growing budget pressures and repeated crises in the Middle East.
The first leg of his trip in South Korea will be filled with symbolic moments as he attends celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries, a bond that dates back to the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.
Mr Hagel on Monday is scheduled to tour the demilitarised zone between the South and North with his counterpart Kim Kwan Jin and watch joint United States-South Korean joint exercises. On Tuesday, he is due to attend a parade marking the country's armed forces day and to hold talks with Mr Kim.