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(LEAD) S. Korea faces challenge in reflecting its stance on N. Korea in ARF statement: source

All News 14:52 July 20, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more remarks and background info throughout)

SEOUL, July 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is expected to face challenges in reflecting its stance on North Korea and its nuclear ambitions in a chairman's statement to be issued at the end of the upcoming regional security meeting, given the chair country's close ties to the communist country, a government source said Wednesday.

Top diplomats from 27 Asia-Pacific countries and the European Union will meet in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and hold a series of meetings led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations over the weekend. South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is to attend the event.

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the region's largest security gathering, will be held on Tuesday, the last day of the annual gathering. The forum will issue a chairman's statement that summarizes what has been discussed during the gathering.

"This year, we could have more difficulty (in reflecting our stance in the statement)," a government official told a group of reporters on condition of anonymity. "There are many things that Laos, a chair country, can decide on its own."

His remarks suggested that since Laos has close ties with North Korea and the ASEAN follows a rigorous consensus-building process in reaching an agreement, it would be tough for South Korea to reflect its stance in the wording of the statement related to Pyongyang's provocative behavior.

This year's ARF comes amid heightened tensions caused by the North's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, Pyongyang conducted its fourth nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests.

The forum is a rare international occasion that North Korea attends along with all the other countries involved in the long-suspended six-part talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambitions. Ri Yong-ho, the North's foreign minister, will likely join the gathering.

The source said that Laos has distributed the first draft of the statement to participating countries which mentioned such issues related to North Korea and South China Sea. He didn't go into details of the wording.

Asked if any bilateral talks have been set, he said that the government is currently making arrangements but noted that nothing has yet to be determined. He added that it is pushing to hold talks between Yun and his Myanmar counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi on the sidelines of the forum.


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