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(LEAD) Defense chiefs of Koreas, Japan invited to security forum in China

All Headlines 15:26 September 15, 2014

(ATTN: ADDS details, quotes in last 4 paras)

BEIJING, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- The defense chiefs of South Korea, North Korea and Japan have been invited to a regional security conference organized by China's defense ministry, a Seoul diplomatic source said Monday, in the latest sign that Beijing is becoming more active in regional security issues in line with its growing military clout.

China's defense ministry is scheduled to hold the Xiangshan Forum on Nov. 20-22 in Beijing and it is the first time that defense ministers of the three nations have been invited by China to attend the regional security forum, the source said on condition of anonymity.

China has already sent invitation letters to South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo, North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong-chol and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, said the source who was briefed by Chinese officials.

Asked about whether Han would attend the November forum, the source replied, "No decision has been made yet."

The little-known forum has focused on discussing security and defense issues in the Asia-Pacific region, but Chinese officials have said they hope to "transform the event into a high-profile security and defense forum."

Chinese defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told reporters in late August that this year's forum will change from a pure academic forum to a high-profile security and defense forum "to adapt to a changing security environment in the Asia-Pacific region."

"To my understanding, the Chinese side is trying to develop the Xiangshan Forum into a major regional security forum like the Shangri-La Dialogue," the South Korean diplomatic source said, referring to the annual security conference in Singapore that has brought together defense ministers from Asia-Pacific nations, including the U.S. defense secretary.

China's military has become increasingly assertive in its territorial disputes with neighbors, including Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

At the same time, North Korea, a traditional ally of China, does not appear to have listened to Beijing's advice to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Xu Jin and Du Zheyuan, researchers at the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in a joint op-ed piece published by state-run China Daily last Thursday that China has been applying the "new thinking" of proactive diplomacy on the North Korean nuclear issue.

"On the nuclear issue of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), for example, China is increasingly expressing its concern as a stakeholder, instead of purely negotiating as a neutral party," they said. "China has its own interests and does not need to be shy in defending them."


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