S. Korea, Australia to hold 1st high-level security talks next week

SEOUL, South Korea –  The foreign and defense ministers from South Korea and Australia will hold their first joint security dialogue in Seoul next week with North Korea expected to be high on the agenda, a Seoul official said Monday.

South Korea and Australia will hold the so-called "two-plus-two" meeting on July 4. The talks on security issues will bring together Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and their respective Australian counterparts Bob Carr and Stephen Smith.

They are scheduled to hold a joint press conference after their meeting on July 4, the official said.

"The Korea-Australia two-plus-two aims to build a closer partnership on bilateral and regional security," the official at Seoul's foreign ministry said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Australia and Japan have held their "two-plus-two" meetings since 2007, while South Korea and the US held such talks for the first time in 2010.

Shortly after North Korea's third nuclear test in February, which the Australian foreign minister condemned, South Korea and Australia agreed to maintain close consultation on the North's provocations.

After months of high tension triggered by its February nuclear test and bellicose rhetoric, North Korea appears to be shifting its stance by offering dialogue to the South and US in recent weeks.

Seoul and Washington have responded by saying that Pyongyang must first demonstrate its sincerity for denuclearization for any talks to resume.

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