South Korea's vice defense minister will visit Cambodia and Laos this week in the country's widening efforts to win over countries close to North Korea as Pyongyang shows little sign of letting up on its military provocations.
A 12-member delegation led by Hwang In-moo will visit Cambodia from Monday to Wednesday, followed by a trip to Laos from Wednesday to Friday, to discuss bilateral defense cooperation, the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
The delegation will also be made up of working-level officials from the foreign ministry, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the defense ministry. Hwang will be the highest South Korean defense ministry official ever to visit the two Southeast Asian countries.
The vice minister plans to hold talks with his counterpart in Cambodia and make courtesy calls on Prime Minister Hun Sen and the foreign minister. He will meet the country's military chief during his stay.
"During the talks with senior officials, (Hwang) plans to request cooperation in dealing with North Korea's nuclear issues, including efforts to push for the implementation of a United Nations Security Council resolution," according to the ministry statement.
In the visit to Laos, Hwang will meet with a defense deputy minister to discuss a wide range of issues, including cooperation in demining, according to the ministry.
The two Southeast Asian nations have traditionally maintained close ties with North Korea, and the South Korean delegation's latest visit is designed as part of the country's broadening diplomatic foray to win over Pyongyang's allies.
In line with the efforts, President Park Geun-hye visited Uganda in late May, where she secured the African country's pledge to sever military cooperation with North Korea.
Seoul is stepping up diplomatic pressure on North Korea following the country's nuclear test in January and a long-range missile test the following month. Both actions are in direct defiance to warnings issued by the international community and numerous United Nations resolutions.
"The upcoming visits will touch on the efforts made by the (Seoul) government following the North's nuclear test," a defense official said. (Yonhap)