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(2nd LD) Top-ranking defense officials of two Koreas to attend military forum in Beijing

All Headlines 16:39 October 22, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES headline; ADDS South Korean vice defense minister's Beijing visit in paras 5-6)

BEIJING, Oct. 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's move to participate in an international military forum organized by the Chinese government is drawing keen attention, amid ongoing negotiations over its denuclearization.

The North's delegation, led by Kim Hyong-ryong, vice minister of the People's Armed Forces, and Song Il-hyok, deputy director general of the Institute for Disarmament and Peace under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, arrived in Beijing on Monday ahead of the opening of the 8th Beijing Xiangshan Forum later this week.

Song and other delegates were escorted out of the airport by officials from the North Korean Embassy and the Chinese government after landing at Beijing's Capital International Airport on an Air Koryo flight in the morning.

The North Korean officials were warmly welcomed at the airport's VIP room.

Song Il-hyok (C), deputy director general of North Korea's Institute for Disarmament and Peace, arrives at Beijing's Capital International Airport on Oct. 22, 2018. (Yonhap)

South Korea will also send its vice defense minister, Suh Choo-suk, to the Xiangshan Forum, raising speculation about a possible inter-Korean dialogue in Beijing. Suh is set to arrive in the Chinese capital Wednesday for a two-day visit.

"Suh plans to meet with representatives from other countries during the Beijing forum. He has no plan to hold talks with the North but may encounter Pyongyang officials during various forum events," a source here said.

They reportedly plan to attend the Xiangshan Forum, which will take place at the Beijing International Convention Center from Wednesday to Friday under the sponsorship of the China Association for Military Science and the China Institute for International Strategic Studies.

The theme of the annual forum this year is "Building a new type of security partnership of equality, mutual trust and win-win cooperation," the organizers said, adding that topics of discussion will include "new ideas for and new approaches to international security governance."

Representatives from about 30 countries, including defense ministers of 15 countries, plan to take part in the forum.

The Beijing source, pointing to the visit of Kim, in particular, said there is a possibility of North Korea and China discussing bilateral military cooperation on the sidelines of the forum.

Kim, who attended a banquet hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang in July to celebrate the 71st founding anniversary of the Chinese military, has been known as North Korea's contact point for its military cooperation with China.

Song called for ending Washington's hostility towards Pyongyang and signing a peace treaty between the two countries during his attendance at a meeting of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific in 2015.

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