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(2nd LD) S. Korea's defense chief to attend security forum in Singapore this week

Diplomacy 16:56 June 01, 2023

(ATTN: CORRECTS 9th para to remove talks with U.S. counterpart; ADDS more details throughout)

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup will leave for Singapore later this week to attend an annual security forum, his ministry said Thursday, in an effort to rally international support for Seoul's efforts to address evolving North Korean threats.

The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue is set to begin in the city-state Friday, amid tensions over Pyongyang's failed yet defiant launch of a space rocket this week and other security quandaries, like the protracted war in Ukraine.

Senior security officials from more than 40 countries, including the United States, China, Britain, Australia and Japan, are expected to join the gathering hosted by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The forum consists of seven key plenary sessions, including those on U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific, the building of a stable and balanced Asia-Pacific, and Asia's evolving maritime security order, according to the ministry.

During a main session Saturday, Lee plans to speak on Seoul's policy efforts against Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, and request support and cooperation from the international community.

This file photo, taken April 25, 2023, shows Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaking at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of the capital. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

This file photo, taken April 25, 2023, shows Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaking at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of the capital. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

On the sidelines of the forum, Lee is scheduled to hold trilateral talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, as the three sides seek closer security cooperation against the North Korean security conundrum.

The meeting is set to discuss ways to expand three-way security drills and establish a system to share North Korean missile warning data in real time, the ministry said in a policy report to parliament.

The three countries have been working to flesh out the agreement on the data sharing from a summit that President Yoon Suk Yeol and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida, reached during a trilateral summit in Cambodia last November.

Lee is also scheduled to hold separate bilateral talks with Hamada as well as his counterparts from China, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany.

The talks with Hamada would mark the first bilateral meeting between the countries' defense chiefs since November 2019, as relations had soured over historical spats stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.

Ties have recently warmed following South Korea's decision in March to compensate Korean victims of Japanese wartime forced labor on its own without asking for contributions from Japanese firms.

The ministry said the talks are set to discuss measures to resolve bilateral defense issues in a "future-oriented" manner, in a likely reference to an unresolved dispute over Japan's maritime patrol aircraft having conducted an unusually low-altitude flyby over a South Korean warship in December 2018.

During talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu, Lee is expected to discuss ways to restart high-level and working-level dialogue between the two sides that had been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the ministry.

Lee will also ask China to play a "constructive" role for North Korea's denuclearization and for the stability on the Korean Peninsula, it added.

The bilateral talks come as signs of tensions emerged with Seoul moving to align closer with Washington to confront North Korean and other regional and global security challenges amid a hardening Sino-U.S. rivalry.


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