North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong left Pyongyang on Saturday to attend a regional security meeting next weekend in Myanmar and visit other Southeast Asian countries.
Ri, who became North Korea's foreign minister in April, was seen arriving at Beijing's international airport later in the day, and the country's official Korean Central News Agency said a delegation led by him will visit Indonesia, Laos, Singapore and Vietnam, in addition to Myanmar, which hosts the ASEAN Regional Forum, slated for Aug. 10 in its capital Naypyitaw.
Whether Ri, a former ambassador to Switzerland, will hold talks for the first time with his counterparts from Japan, South Korea and the United States on the sidelines of the regional forum will be closely watched.
Ri was known as a guardian of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un when he studied at an international school in Switzerland in the 1990s.
Ri's possible participation in the forum, Asia's biggest security gathering, comes amid North Korea's series of missile tests in recent weeks, while Japan lifted some sanctions last month on the country in return for its reopening of an investigation into the fate of Japanese nationals abducted in the 1970s and 1980s.
The 27-member ARF, which also includes Australia, China and the European Union, will be held along with other foreign ministerial meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is the only regional security gathering in which North Korea's foreign minister takes part.