Defense chief leaves for Thailand to attend ASEAN defense ministers’ forum
SEOUL-- Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo headed to Thailand on Saturday for an international security meeting and one-on-one talks on its sidelines with his Japanese counterpart ahead of the planned expiration of their intelligence-sharing pact.
The two-day 6th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) will open in Bangkok on Sunday. The gathering is expected to bring together defense chiefs from ASEAN countries and eight member states -- South Korea, the United States, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and India, according to the ministry.
On its sidelines, Jeong is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with his foreign counterparts, including Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, as well as trilateral talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterpart, according to Seoul officials.
If held, Jeong's meeting with Kono will come less than a week before the Nov. 23 expiry of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). South Korea announced its decision in August to end the three-year-old agreement after Japan imposed export curbs on Seoul amid a row over wartime forced labor.
Japan wants to maintain the pact, and the U.S. has also called for its renewal. But South Korea has maintained the stance that any reconsideration would be possible only if Japan first retracts its export restrictions against the South.
During a press conference following the annual Seoul-Washington defense ministers' talks in Seoul, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper urged his two Asian allies "to sit down and work through their differences," as its termination only benefits North Korea and China.
Jeong expressed his hope that Seoul and Tokyo could have "good discussions in a positive direction" so as to be able to maintain the pact.
During the multilateral conference, Jeong is scheduled to deliver a speech on the government's peace process involving North Korea and ask for international support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the push to turn the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into a peace zone, according to the ministry.
In his address during the U.N. General Assembly session in New York in September, President Moon Jae-in proposed turning the DMZ that separates the two Koreas into a global peace zone, saying the plan will provide an institutional and realistic guarantee of North Korea's security.
ADMM-Plus, launched in 2010, had been held every two or three years. Then from last year, it became an annual event.
During his trip to Thailand, the minister also plans to visit a defense exhibition and meet with officials of South Korean companies participating in the event, according to the ministry.
After wrapping up his schedule in Thailand, Jeong is scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a five-day official visit there at the invitation of the Middle Eastern country.
In Saudi Arabia, the minister plans to meet with the Saudi crown prince and other senior security and defense officials "to discuss ways to develop bilateral defense cooperation," the ministry said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency