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Shangri-La Dialogue set to discuss N.K. nuclear issue, S. China Sea rows

All News 11:42 June 03, 2016

SINGAPORE, June 3 (Yonhap) -- An annual regional defense ministers' summit, the Asia Security Summit, is set to kick off its three-day run in the city-state of Singapore on Friday, with North Korea's ever-growing nuclear ambition and South China Sea rows expected to top this year's agenda.

The regional forum, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue after its venue at the Shangri-La Hotel, will bring together defense ministers from 23 countries, including South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and France. Another 12 countries will also dispatch delegations of high-level defense officials to the meeting.

Observers said that North Korea will be a prominent topic at the meeting since this year's dialogue comes as the international community is trying to rein in the country’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons.

They add that China's relentless territorial claims to the South China Sea may also feature dominantly, as it did last year, especially since several Southeast Asian countries along with the United States and Japan have been opposed to what they see as Beijing's territorial expansionism.

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo, who is set to fly into Singapore in the afternoon, is scheduled to deliver a speech at a plenary session on Saturday where he will call for increased and concerted international efforts to deter North Korea's nuclear weapons ambition.

He will also stress the need for all members to follow through with a recent United Nations Security Council sanction adopted in March in retaliation for Pyongyang's nuclear test in January and long-range missile test the next month.

North Korea's nuclear issues will be put to more in-depth discussion when Han holds separate bilateral meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter as well as his Chinese and Japanese counterparts on Saturday on the sidelines of the dialogue hosted by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan are also scheduled to hold a trilateral summit of defense ministers on Saturday.

"North Korea's nuclear issues will come up as the most important agenda at this year's Asia Security Summit on top of the South China Sea issues," a South Korean defense official said. "Seoul expects international collaboration on countering North Korea's nuclear and missile threats will gather further traction after this meeting."

U.S. news reports, meanwhile, said the upcoming South Korea-U.S. meeting would discuss the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, but South Korea's defense ministry refuted the reports, saying, "There are no plans for discussion on the matter between South Korean and U.S. defense ministers at the latest Shangri-La Dialogue."

On Sunday, Han is also scheduled to hold talks with his French and Swiss counterparts, with North Korean nuclear issues also expected to dominate the discussions.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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