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(3rd LD) S. Korea's FM Yun to highlight Pyongyang's nuke threat at ASEAN meetings

All News 19:07 July 23, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS with Yun's remarks in headline; STREAMLINES throughout; ADDS photo)
By Koh Byung-joon

VIENTIANE, July 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Saturday that he will drive home the fact that North Korea's nuclear and missile threats stretch beyond the neighboring regions and affect the entire international community as he joins a series of meetings led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

He made the remarks in a brief meeting with reporters at Incheon International Airport before leaving for the Laotian capital of Vientiane where he will hold talks with his ASEAN counterparts in the days to come.

"I will emphasize that the threat emanating from the North's nuclear bombs and missiles not only poses problems for the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia but the wider world at large," he said.

"At the same time, I will endeavor to deliver the message to all participating countries that the Security Council's resolutions should be thoroughly implemented," he added.

Yun is to arrive here on Sunday. He is to attend a series of meetings including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) slated for the last day of the annual event on Tuesday.

The ARF is seen as the highlight of this year's ASEAN meetings, as it will provide a platform for 27 countries, including the 10 ASEAN members, the EU and the two Koreas, to discuss regional security issues.

The forum is a rare international occasion attended by all of the countries involved in the long-halted six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambitions.

North Korea's repeated provocations of pursuing nuclear and missile programs and territorial spats in the South China Sea are expected to be high on the agenda.

The ASEAN meetings come amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula prompted by the North's recent missile tests in defiance of warnings by the international community. Speculation is also mounting that Pyongyang is preparing a fifth nuclear test, following the fourth one conducted in January this year.

Earlier, foreign media reports said that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has departed Pyongyang to make a trip to the ARF. He is likely to arrive in Vientiane later on Sunday, a Kyodo news report said, citing officials with knowledge of the situation.

The Japanese newswire said that one of the officials who saw him off in Pyongyang included China's Ambassador to North Korea Li Jinjun, which some say could be an indication that the two allies could have bilateral talks on the sidelines of the forum.

The North's state media later confirmed Ri's departure for Laos.

This would mark his first debut on a multilateral diplomatic stage since taking office in May.

Ri is known to be open-minded and lean toward dialogue, an assessment that raised expectations that his appointment as the foreign minister might be signaling that the reclusive country would try to engage the U.S. and other countries in talks.

Yun said that preparations are underway for talks with his counterparts from China, Japan and the United States but when asked if he has any plan to meet with Ri on the sidelines, Yun said there is "none at this moment," but left the open the possibility for an encounter.

"Given that the meetings are multilateral talks, I do not rule out encounters (with Ri)," he said.

South Korea has been firm on its stance not to hold formal talks with the North unless the reclusive country shows meaningful changes on its attitude towards denuclearization.


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