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(2nd LD) N. Korean foreign minister in Singapore for regional forum

All Headlines 11:12 August 03, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES lead paras with plan for bilats; ADDS photos)
By Lee Chi-dong

SINGAPORE, Aug. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho began his trip to Singapore on Friday to attend an annual forum hosted by a group of Southeast Asian countries amid speculation about whether he will meet bilaterally with his South Korean and U.S. counterparts.

Ri flew from Beijing on an Air China plane. Entering his hotel in Singapore, wearing a black suit and a purple tie, he didn't take reporters' questions about his activity here.

The minister and his entourage stayed at the hotel throughout the morning.

Ri plans to join the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), slated for Saturday, and is also expected to meet bilaterally with some of his foreign counterparts on the sidelines, including those from Cambodia and Laos.

A diplomatic source said the North has proposed such one-one-one meetings with several ARF member states.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho enters his hotel in Singapore on Aug. 3, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea's top diplomat Kang Kyung-wha is on a visit to the city-state as well.

She has offered to hold bilateral talks with Ri, but no schedule has been announced yet.

A combined image of South Korea's top diplomat Kang Kyung-wha (L) and her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho (Yonhap)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to show up later Friday.

The secretary's aides have been noncommittal about the possibility of his separate meeting with Ri.

The ARF, a gathering of more than two dozen top diplomats, "provides a platform for a lot of interaction -- some sit-down meetings, some side-bar meetings, some pull-asides, some chance encounters -- to address challenges in the region or other business," a State Department official, accompanying Pompeo on his ongoing Asia tour, said on background.

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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