S. Korean top diplomat arrives in Manila for ASEAN meetings
MANILA-- South Korea's top diplomat arrived in the Philippines on Saturday to attend meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations where she will discuss measures with regional powers to curb growing threats from North Korea.
"This is my debut on a multilateral diplomatic platform," Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters upon arriving at Ninoy Akino International Airport in Manila. "Having said that, we have arranged bilateral talks with as many countries as possible."
She is to attend a string of ASEAN meetings, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) scheduled for Monday.
Her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho is also expected to participate in the rare multilateral conference to which all the members of the now-suspended six-party denuclearization talks send their top diplomats.
There are cautious expectations that there might be some contact between Kang and Ri on the sidelines. That would possibly provide a chance for the two divided Koreas to communicate and start the process of genuine talks aimed at easing heightened tensions following the North's repeated missile and nuclear provocations.
"If there is an opportunity that naturally occurs, we should talk," Kang said. "I would like to deliver our desire for the North to stop its provocations and positively respond to our recent special offers (for talks) aimed at establishing a peace regime (on the Korean Peninsula)."
On Saturday afternoon, Kang will start her schedule here by holding back-to-back bilateral talks with Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. During her stay until early next week, she is expected to hold meetings with representatives of around 15 countries.
On the sidelines, Kang will also likely meet with her counterparts from the U.S. and China -- Rex Tillerson and Wang Yi -- to discuss North Korea and other issues of mutual concern.
The meetings come amid mounting pressure on the North following its continued missile provocations. Pyongyang conducted its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.
The U.S. and China are reportedly discussing fresh sanctions on the North that could slash its exports by more than 30 percent. A South Korean diplomatic source said that Russia seems to have supported the move.
It is likely that the UNSC will put it to a vote soon.
Kang said that South Korea has been in close consultation with the U.S. on the move under way at the council, saying, "Those measures to be contained will likely have highly effective sanctions elements."
With regard to the ongoing row with China over the ongoing deployment of the U.S. High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, Kang said that she thinks it is a matter of national defense and interest. She added that communication with Beijing should continue.
On Sunday Kang will join the South Korea-ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting to discuss relations, the North's evolving threats, and other global and regional issues.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.
She will also attend other gatherings Monday, such as the ASEAN plus three meeting, which includes South Korea, China and Japan, and the East Asia Summit.
The East Asia Summit, an annual forum meant to discuss regional and international strategic issues, is composed of ASEAN plus its eight dialogue partners -- South Korea, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Australia, India and New Zealand.
Source: Yonhap News Agency