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(2nd LD) Foreign ministers of two Koreas meet at key ASEAN meeting

All Headlines 12:01 July 23, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remarks in paras 7-11; RECASTS first para; ADDS new photos)
By Kim Deok-hyun

BALI, Indonesia, July 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan held a brief meeting here with his North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-chun, an official said Saturday, in an apparent attempt to keep the fresh momentum of dialogue going.

The informal meeting between Kim and Pak came a day after the chief nuclear envoys from the two Koreas met for the first time since 2008 and agreed to make joint efforts to resume multilateral talks over the North's nuclear program as soon as possible.

"Before entering a session of the ASEAN Regional Forum this morning, Minister Kim had a brief talk with Pak," the South Korean official said on the condition of anonymity.

It was the first time that top diplomats from the two Koreas have met since a meeting at an ASEAN forum in July 2008 in Singapore.

On Friday, South Korea's chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac and his newly appointed North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho agreed in Bali to work toward reopening the six-party talks on ending the North's nuclear program.

The talks between Wi and Ri raised cautious hopes for the resumption of the six-party process, which has been stalled for more than two years. The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

At the ASEAN forum on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that she was "encouraged" by the surprise talks between the Wi and Ri, but urged the North to show its genuine commitment to denuclearization ahead of the six-party talks.

"We are encouraged by the recent North-South meeting that took place on the margins of the ASEAN Regional Forum," Clinton said.

"But we remain firm that in order for six-party talks to resume, North Korea must take steps to improve North-South relations," she said.

Clinton called for "North Korea to demonstrate a change in behavior, including ceasing provocative actions, taking steps toward irreversible denuclearization and complying with its commitments."

Later in the day, Clinton was scheduled to join a trilateral meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim and Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto.

South Korea and the regional powers are pushing to reopen the six-party nuclear dialogue forum in a three-step approach in which North Korea will meet with South Korea first and then the U.S. for one-on-one talks on denuclearization before the multilateral process can take place.

Top diplomats from all six of the nations attended this year's ASEAN forum in Bali.

kdh@yna.co.kr
(END)

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