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N. Korea's FM to attend Asian security forum in Indonesia: source

All Headlines 10:59 July 12, 2011

SEOUL, July 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun plans to attend a regional security forum later this month in Indonesia, a diplomatic source here said Tuesday.

The North Korean minister's visit to the annual ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on July 21-23, hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), comes amid persistent tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the North's deadly attacks on South Korea and a diplomatic impasse over the North's nuclear program.

"It has been understood that about 10 North Korean officials, led by Pak, plan to attend the forum," the source said on the condition of anonymity.

However, Ri Yong-ho, North Korea's vice foreign minister who played a leading role in discussing the North's nuclear issue at last year's ARF, is expected to skip this year's forum, according to the source.

Late last month, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters that he was willing to meet with his North Korean counterpart on the sidelines of the forum.

"If the North's Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun wants to talk with me, there is no reason for me to refuse," Kim said. "Whether it be me who proposes a meeting first or Minister Pak, I am willing to sit with him through any channel available."

Since 2000, when inter-Korean relations warmed, foreign ministers from the two Koreas had occasionally met during the annual forum.

However, no such meetings have taken place since 2008, as tensions have grown over the North's long-range missile launch, nuclear defiance and Seoul's get-tough policy toward Pyongyang.

The 27 ARF members are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, East Timor, the U.S., Vietnam and the European Union.

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