(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more details; RECASTS 2nd para)
By Song Sang-ho
SINGAPORE, June 12 (Yonhap) -- South Korea seeks to "normalize" security cooperation with Japan and strengthen trilateral collaboration involving the United States to address North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, Seoul's defense minister said Sunday.
Lee Jong-sup was speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in this city state, striving to drum up global support to tackle the security challenges that he said can affect the overall Indo-Pacific region.
This year's session of Asia's premier defense forum took place amid increased tensions caused by the North's recent ballistic missile launches and its preparations for a nuclear test. Security concerns deepened further after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his regime's principle of "power for power and head-on contest" during a recent key ruling party session.
The minister said that South Korea intends to engage in a "serious" dialogue with Japan not just to normalize security cooperation between the two countries but also to beef up trilateral cooperation with the U.S.
He pointed out "unresolved issues" between Seoul and Tokyo in an apparent allusion to historical and other rows largely stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
But he expressed Seoul's intention to "have the two sides put their wisdom together to reach reasonable solutions in a way that is in line with the two countries' shared interests."
Lee also laid out the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's goal to denuclearize the North in a "complete, verifiable" manner, stressing "our principle to establish a sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula will remain firm and robust."
"To this end, we will set forth clear corresponding measures with the international community to pursue the denuclearization of North Korea," he said.
Lee highlighted Seoul's pursuit of a "bold plan that can yield groundbreaking improvements for North Korea's economy and its citizens' quality of life."
But he stressed such a drive will proceed "from a position of strength" that will be undergirded by efforts to better implement America's extended deterrence and "dramatically" increase South Korea's own military capabilities.
Extended deterrence refers to the U.S.' commitment to mobilizing a full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear options, to defend its ally.
Lee emphasized a linkage between stability of the peninsula and that of the overall region.
"South Korea's political, economic and cultural status as well as the distinctive geopolitical character of the Korean Peninsula are inseparable from the stability in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.
Lee also used his speech to outline a set of Seoul's initiatives to make more contributions to regional security.
Those include expanding cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "in more domains, more proactively" through joint responses against cyberthreats and other challenges.
On the basis of the principles of "openness, transparency, and inclusiveness," he added, Seoul plans to expand cooperation with various regional security bodies, like the Quad forum.
"The Republic of Korea will seek to play a constructive role as a 'global pivotal state,' so that rather than ruling out a certain country, it can unlock the greatest amount of security benefits for the greatest number of countries," he said.
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