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(LEAD) S. Korea to hold foreign ministerial talks with China, Japan, Russia

All News 09:08 August 02, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's media interview in last 9 paras)
By Lee Chi-dong

SINGAPORE, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will engage in a round of bilateral diplomacy in Singapore involving China, Japan and Russia later Thursday amid annual regional forums organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), her ministry officials said.

She plans to hold back-to-back talks with her Chinese, Japanese and Russian counterparts in the afternoon, all of whom plan to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) slated for Saturday.

High on the agenda, as usual, is North Korea. The focus is on ways to move the denuclearization of Korea forward and achieve a peace regime.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (L) attends a multilateral meeting with her Chinese and Japanese counterparts -- Wang Yi (R) and Taro Kono -- in Manila on Aug. 7, 2017, in this file photo. (Yonhap)

Meeting with Myanmar's Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin in Singapore on Wednesday, Kang pointed out that denuclearization is a "complicated process" in spite of high expectations spurred by the recent peace mood, according to her aides.

She stressed a peace system for security assurances that the North wants will be discussed in tandem with denuclearization.

Pyongyang and Washington agreed to seek the "complete denuclearization" of the peninsula in return for peace-building measures during their Singapore summit on June 12. But they have sparred with each other over the sequence of concrete steps.

Drawing support from China, Japan and Russia is crucial in the peace process initiated by the Moon Jae-in administration.

Few would deny that China's constructive role, in particular, is indispensable.

It's the North's last-remaining communist ally and largest benefactor. It's also a signatory to the Armistice Agreement that effectively ended the Korean War.

China has stated that it would participate actively in efforts to bring lasting peace to Korea, but it has been rather vague on Koreas' push for the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 conflict.

In his unannounced visit to South Korea earlier this month, Yang Jiechi, a top Chinese communist party official in charge of foreign affairs, apparently talked about the issue with senior South Korean officials.

The issue will likely be raised in Kang's meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi here.

On the basis of her consultations with the top diplomats of the regional powers, Kang will hold bilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is scheduled to arrive in Singapore early Friday morning.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Kang said a schedule has not been set for her separate meeting with Ri.

"I have indicated my desire (for the meeting). I think it will be very useful. We don't have any concrete timeframe, but hopefully it happens," she said. "But if not, there will be other opportunities."

She was one of the first comers among the top diplomats of the ASEAN's dialogue partners.

Starting on Wednesday morning, Kang met individually with her Malaysian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Brunei and Laotian counterparts.

The minister emphasized the need for a united front on Korean Peninsula affairs.

"What has brought us to this point is the unity of the international community in the message to North Korea," the minister said.

She recalled the previous ARF session held in Manila last year, in which member states sent a "very powerful" warning message to the North for sticking to provocative acts.

Kang expressed hope that members this year will help further strengthen the momentum for peace dialogue.

The 27-member ARF is the sole regional multilateral diplomacy channel in which Pyongyang is involved. The communist nation has endeavored to maintain or improve relations with Southeast Asian countries.


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