S. Korea seeking to insert ‘condemn’ into ARF statement to criticize N.K. provocations: source

MANILA-- South Korea is seeking to insert the word "condemn" into the chairman's statement of a key regional security forum to criticize North Korea's repeated provocations, an informed source said Saturday.

The statement is to be issued at the end of the ASEAN Regional Forum to be held on Monday as part of a string of meetings of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and its partners.

The ARF has not used the word in denouncing the North in its chairman's statement, which is supposed to reflect the stances of all 27 participating countries, including the North. It is a rare multilateral diplomatic forum to which Pyongyang sends its top diplomat.

"Grave concerns" is among the harshest expressions it has used regarding the North so far.

"It may be hard to make it happen, but we are still seeking to include that word in this year's statement," a government source close to the matter told Yonhap on the condition of anonymity.

"We are trying to apply pressure to bring the North to the negotiating table."

This year's ARF comes amid heightened concerns over the North's nuclear and missile programs.

The North test-fired what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile twice on July 4 and July 28, drawing strong condemnation from the international community. The United Nations Security Council is reportedly working on fresh punitive sanctions on the North.

A foreign ministry official earlier told reporters that the Seoul government wants this year's statement to reflect Seoul's peace initiative toward the North while at the same time sending a resolute message against Pyongyang's repeated provocations.

Upon arriving at an airport here on Saturday to join the ASEAN meetings, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters that she would like to urge the North to stop its provocations and ask it to positively respond to Seoul's recent offers for talks when she has a chance to meet North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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