US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (AP-Yonhap)
WASHINGTON -- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored his country's commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a regional forum attended by the top diplomats of 17 other countries, including South Korea, the State Department said Wednesday.
The top US diplomat also reaffirmed US support for the countries in battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
"He pledged continued US support for a free and open Mekong subregion and reaffirmed US commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the State Department said of Blinken's participation in the virtual East Asia Summit (EAS).
"He also stressed the critical role international cooperation plays in combating cybercrime, especially in consideration of the global rise in ransomware incidents," it added in a press release.
The EAS is an annual forum, led by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It involves eight other countries, including Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and Russia.
The State Department earlier said Blinken will urge ASEAN members to fully implement U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea during this week's ASEAN related fora that include ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), attended by 26 countries, including North Korea.
A senior department official has said the US expected North Korea to take part in the ARF has it done so in the past, but that Blinken had no immediate plans to engage with his North Korean counterpart.
The US has repeatedly reached out to the reclusive North since President Joe Biden took office in January, but Pyongyang remains unresponsive to US overtures.
North Korea, however, reopened its direct communication lines with South Korea last week, prompting hopes that the country may return to dialogue with the US in the near future.
The North has stayed away from dialogue with the US since leader Kim Jong-un held an unproductive summit with former US President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2019. (Yonhap)