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(LEAD) S. Korean defense chief to join security forum in Singapore

All News 22:17 June 01, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 4-9, last para; CHANGES dateline)
By Lee Chi-dong

SINGAPORE/SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's troubled defense minister will attend a high-level security forum in Singapore later this week, his ministry announced Thursday.

It will serve as a chance for the minister, Han Min-koo, to focus on a round of "defense diplomacy" on the North Korean issue, taking a break from a massive political controversy over the handling of the U.S. deployment of its advanced missile defense system, called THAAD, here.

Han will "attend the 16th Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, as planned," the ministry said. It will take place from Friday to Sunday.

Launched in 2002, the annual event draws defense ministers, military chiefs and other representatives from Asia, the Europe and America.

More than 30 countries took part in last year's session. North Korea was not present at the event, which organizers say is the most important regular gathering of defense professionals in the Asia-Pacific region.

Han plans to share the opinions of other participants on new security challenges and "discuss ways for promoting regional peace and stability," said the ministry.

He will especially stress the importance of solidifying international partnerships in dealing with North Korea, it added.

On the sidelines of the session, Han is scheduled to hold a series of bilateral talks with his U.S., Japanese, Canadian, Australian, Indonesian, Filipino and New Zealander counterparts.

In talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Saturday, North Korea's growing missile and nuclear threats will be high on the agenda.

It's almost certain that the THAAD issue will be raised as well, as it comes ahead of summit talks between South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in and his American counterpart Donald Trump slated for late this month.

South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo (R) shakes hands with his American counterpart Jim Mattis in talks held in Seoul on Feb. 3, 2017. (Yonhap)

U.S. Forces Korea has positioned two THAAD rocket launchers and a cutting-edge X-band radar at the designated site in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, under a bilateral deal signed in 2016.

Four more launchers remain stored at a nearby U.S. military base to be installed there.

Han has come under fire amid allegations that he sought to conceal the dispatch of the four extra launchers to the country.

The presidential office said the defense ministry "intentionally" dropped a related explanation from a report on pending defense issues to Moon.

The THAAD equipment apparently arrived here before Moon took office on May 9 in a process that the Pentagon says was transparent.

But Moon has stated that the THAAD was brought into the country without public consent and due procedures. He wants to review Seoul's decision on THAAD or renegotiate it with the Trump administration.

Han and Mattis, meanwhile, will also hold a trilateral meeting involving Japan's defense chief Tomomi Inada.


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