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S. Korea's point man on unification to visit Kazakhstan next week

All Headlines 17:20 August 25, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's point man on unification plans to visit Kazakhstan next week to attend a global conference to discuss how to free the world of nuclear weapons, government officials said Thursday.

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo will attend the forum titled "Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World" to be held in Astana on Sunday and Monday, Seoul's unification ministry said. The minister will come back home on Wednesday.

The forum will be held to mark the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the main venue used by the Soviet Union to test its nuclear weapons.

Hong plans to deliver a keynote speech on Monday where he will call on North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, citing Kazakhstan's voluntary decision to abandon nukes, according to the ministry.

Kazakhstan abandoned 1,400 Soviet-era nuclear weapons in 1995 and later closed the nuclear test site where about 500 atomic tests had been conducted between 1949 and 1990 when the country was part of the Soviet Union.

The conference will serve as a venue to reaffirm the international community's will to build a nuclear-free world and discuss cooperation over the issue, it said.

The ministry said that Hong will meet with Kazakhstan's Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and hold talks with Lassina Zerbo, executive-secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), on the sidelines of the forum. Hong is expected to seek cooperation to resolve North Korea's nuclear issue.

On Tuesday, Hong plans to meet with South Koreans living in Almaty to explain the government's unification policy and listen to their opinions, it added.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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