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S. Korea seeks to convince ARF to prod N. Korea to change course

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Kim Deok-hyun

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, June 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is revving up diplomatic efforts to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program when an Asian security meeting opens here next week, Seoul officials said Saturday.

Top diplomats and senior officials from 27 Asia-Pacific nations are scheduled to begin a two-day ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Brunei on Monday. The annual meeting will also bring together North Korea and all other key players in Asia and the Pacific.

The forum, hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has served as an important venue for discussions on North Korea because it has brought together foreign ministers of the six nations involved in the long-stalled talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambitions. The six-party talks which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been dormant since late 2008.

"We are making diplomatic efforts for the ARF to adopt a chairman's statement supporting our stance that North Korea must show its sincerity on denuclearization through actions, not words," said the senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, declined to elaborate on the language South Korea wants to include in the document.

A draft statement of the ARF chairman's statement, seen by Yonhap News Agency, said the forum would urge North Korea to "abide by its obligations under the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions and its commitments" in a joint statement agreed at the six-party talks in 2005.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se arrived here to attend the forum and the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported earlier in the day that Pyongyang's top diplomat Pak Ui-chun headed for Brunei.

"A DPRK (North Korea) delegation led by Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun left here Saturday to take part in the ministerial meeting of the ASEAN

Regional Forum," KCNA said in a brief report.

Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young, who is in Brunei, said "no plan" has been set so far for a one-on-one meeting between Yun and Pak.

After months of high tensions triggered by the February nuclear test and bellicose threats against South Korea and the U.S., North Korea has appeared to shift to dialogue in recent weeks.

South Korea and the U.S. have stressed that North Korea must comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions and abide by international obligations before any resumption of meaningful talks can take place.

On Sunday, top diplomats of the 10-member ASEAN bloc will hold their meeting and it will expand to the ARF on Monday.

Besides North Korea's nuclear programs, China's territorial spats with its neighbors are expected to be high on the agenda at this year's forum.

On the forum's sidelines, South Korean foreign minister Yun, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will meet together on Monday, Seoul officials said.

This week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first summit in Beijing and reaffirmed the need to end the North's nuclear weapons program through dialogue.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/130629/s-korea-seeks-convince-arf-prod-n-korea-change-course