S. Korean FM to visit Myanmar for ASEAN security meeting

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foreign minister will fly to Myanmar this week to join a set of meetings led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including a regional security forum, officials said Wednesday.

Top diplomats from 26 Asia-Pacific countries and the European Union are scheduled to meet in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar, for a series of meetings led by ASEAN, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia's biggest annual security gathering. The meetings will be held on Saturday and Sunday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will visit Myanmar on Thursday for a five-day stay to participate in ARF and other ASEAN talks, according to government officials. ARF, which will be held on Sunday, is the only multilateral framework joined by North Korea.

"North Korea's nuclear issue, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and a crisis in Ukraine are likely to top the agenda for this year's ARF," said a government official.

North Korea has threatened to carry out "a new form" of nuclear test, raising tension in the region. Pyongyang has beefed up its provocative acts in recent months by launching short-range missiles and rockets.

North Korea's new foreign minister, Ri Su-yong, will make his debut at the security forum after he became the top diplomat in April.

Seoul is seeking to make efforts to elicit support from the member countries to ARF in urging the North to end its nuke program, officials said.

South Korea plans to hold a foreign ministers' meeting with Canada and India, but it has not decided yet over whether Yun will have talks with his counterparts from North Korea and Japan, according to officials. A trilateral meeting among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo is likely to take place, they added.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have reached their lowest ebb in recent years due to Japan's stance on historical grievances and its territorial claims to Seoul's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

According to sources, North Korea may seek to hold a bilateral meeting with China, Japan and Mongolia.

Situations in Northeast Asia took a new twist as North Korea agreed in May to re-investigate the fate of Japanese nationals that its agent kidnapped in the 1970s and 80s.

Japan said it plans to lift some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea as the North has decided to set up a panel for the probe.

Observers said that a possible meeting between Pyongyang and Tokyo is likely to be highlighted by the media as their deal is feared to hamper cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo in curbing the North's nuclear programs.

Ri, a former ambassador to Switzerland, replaced Pak Ui-chun as the top diplomat of the communist country in a reshuffle of key officials. He is believed to have served as a guardian of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un when Kim studied at an international school in Switzerland in the 1990s.

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