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S. Korea’s defense chief to head to Singapore for security forum

South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup will depart for Singapore on Friday to attend an annual security forum, where Pyongyang's evolving military threats, the war in Ukraine and an intensifying Sino-U.S. rivalry are expected to top the agenda.

The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue is set to kick off in the city-state later in the day, bringing together senior security officials from more than 40 countries, including the United States, China, Britain, Australia and Japan, according to Seoul officials.

Hosted by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the forum consists of seven key sessions, including those on U.S. leadership in the Indo-Pacific, the building of a stable and balanced Asia-Pacific, and Asia's evolving maritime security order.

During a main session Saturday, Lee plans to speak on Seoul's policy efforts against North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, and request cooperation from the international community, amid tensions over Pyongyang's failed yet defiant launch of a space rocket Wednesday.

On the sidelines of the forum, Lee is scheduled to hold trilateral talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, as the three sides seek closer security cooperation against the North Korean security conundrum.

The meeting is expected to discuss ways to expand three-way security drills and establish a system to share North Korean missile warning data in real time, according to Seoul's defense ministry.

The three countries have been working to flesh out the agreement on the data sharing from a summit that President Yoon Suk Yeol and his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida, respectively, reached during a trilateral summit in Cambodia last November.

Lee is also scheduled to hold separate bilateral talks with Hamada, as well as his counterparts from China, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany.

The meeting with Hamada will take place amid recent efforts to improve ties and is expected to discuss unresolved defense issues, including a row over a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft's unusually low-altitude flyby over a South Korean warship in December 2018.

It would mark the first bilateral meeting between the countries' defense chiefs since November 2019.

During talks with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu, Lee will discuss ways to restart high-level and working-level dialogue between the two sides that has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the ministry.

The bilateral talks come as signs of tensions emerged with Seoul moving to align closer with Washington to confront North Korea and other regional and global security challenges amid a hardening Sino-U.S. rivalry.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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