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FM to court ASEAN countries amid thaw with N. Korea

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong speaks during the South Korea-ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting held virtually at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on Tuesday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong speaks during the South Korea-ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting held virtually at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on Tuesday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong is expected to meet virtually with Southeast Asian foreign ministers Friday and ask for their support in building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, as the two Koreas seek to repair ties over recently reconnected hotlines.

North Korea is also attending the ASEAN Regional Forum, which brings together top envoys from the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations and their counterparts from 17 countries, including the US and EU.

But North Korea’s ambassador to Indonesia is expected to take part in Asia’s top security summit on behalf of the foreign minister, in what many see as a sign that Pyongyang is not as interested in inter-Korean peace efforts as Seoul.

Last week, the two Koreas reopened hotlines the North cut off a year ago when it ramped up tension, but they are at odds again over joint military drills between the South and US that kick off next week. The North routinely denounces them as rehearsals of an invasion.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Chung and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed their commitment to bringing about a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and building permanent peace via a phone call, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said.

The US reiterated support for inter-Korean dialogue and engagement, including humanitarian exchanges, it added. The Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, has recently asked the North to discuss preparing to open a virtual meeting and approved civilian-led humanitarian aid.

Chung said Thursday he will seek to resume nuclear talks with North Korea on the back of strong support from the US and the international community. 

North Korea has described any inter-Korean summit as “thoughtless.”

A Washington-Pyongyang dialogue is not expected at the meeting Friday, according to the US State Department who said the US will not engage directly with North Korea.

The US is expected to urge countries at the meeting to implement the UN resolutions on North Korea, which ban the reclusive regime from testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and importing material and technology to support the activity.

The US will discuss a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region, which many see as a move to put checks on an increasingly assertive China, among other issues, including the Myanmar crisis and coronavirus vaccine cooperation.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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