(ATTN: ADDS more info in 9th para; FIXES name in 8th para)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha called Saturday for Asia-Pacific countries to send a "unified message" for the resumption of dialogue with North Korea, renewing Seoul's resolve to forge ahead with efforts for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Speaking at the video-linked ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Kang also highlighted South Korea's push to improve inter-Korean ties through various projects for cross-border cooperation, which she called a "cornerstone" of peace on the peninsula.
Inter-Korean dialogue has remained stalled amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, which has continued since their summit in Hanoi in February last year ended without a deal.
"Minister Kang said that although it would be difficult to resolve the long-standing distrust on the Korean Peninsula in a short period of time, the peninsula issue can be settled only through sustained dialogue and cooperation," the foreign ministry said in a press release.
"The minister said she expects the ARF to send a unified message calling for a peaceful resolution of the issue thorough an early resumption of dialogue," it added.
Participants in the ministerial session shared the view that peace on the peninsula is directly linked to peace and prosperity in the overall region. But they also mentioned the need to implement U.N. Security Council sanctions against the North.
The virtual ARF session brought together representatives from 27 countries, including the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the United States, China and Japan.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon did not participate, but An Kwang-il, a senior North Korean diplomat in Indonesia, attended the session instead.
An was said to have not made any direct remarks on Kang's call for dialogue.
On the South China Sea issue, Kang reiterated Seoul's position in support of the freedom of navigation and overflights in the strategically vital waterway, saying peace in the sea is particularly crucial at a time of the COVID-19 crisis.
Touching on the issue of refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, Kang noted that Seoul is pushing for US$5.5 million in humanitarian aid for refugees this year.
In addition, the minister stressed the importance of the regional countries remaining vigilant against a series of nontraditional security challenges, such as terrorism and cyberincursions, noting increased cyberspace activity amid the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Kang joined the ASEAN Plus Three meeting, which includes South Korea, China and Japan; the South Korea-ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting; and the East Asia Summit (EAS) session. All these sessions were held via videoconference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the sessions, Kang called for stronger multilateral cooperation in tackling transnational issues, such as the new coronavirus, while reaffirming Seoul's resolve to deepen relations with ASEAN under its signature New Southern Policy.
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