S. Korea’s top diplomat heads to Singapore for key regional forum

SEOUL, July 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha left Tuesday for Singapore to join a series of bilateral and multilateral talks on North Korea and other regional issues.

Her weeklong trip will focus on Seoul's ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Korean peace process, which includes declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War.

"As (the declaration) is our diplomatic task, (we) will push for it if there is an opportunity," Kang told Yonhap News Agency before heading for the airport. "(But) there isn't anything concrete yet that has been fixed."

Later Kang voiced hope that she will have more "concrete" discussions with major countries this week regarding Seoul's push for denuclearization and peace on the peninsula.

"I also get this feeling that other countries (participating in the ASEAN forums) may give much support (for Seoul's policy toward Pyongyang)," she told reporters at the airport.

Asked about the possibility of talks with her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho, Kang said that she has been pushing for it "through various channels," but nothing has been arranged yet.

Kang plans to attend an annual ASEAN-South Korea foreign ministers' meeting and a Mekong-South Korea foreign ministers' meeting on Friday.

The next day, Kang will take part in the ASEAN Plus Three, East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) talks.

The ASEAN Plus Three forum also involves her Chinese and Japanese counterparts. The EAS is joined by the United States, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The highlight of this week's Singapore sessions will be the ARF, in which North Korea will participate.

It's uncertain whether U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will join the Kang-Ri meeting or hold separate talks with the North's minister.

Pompeo's department announced that he's planning to visit Singapore on Friday and Saturday.

If he holds an official meeting with Ri, it may help provide a boost to the denuclearization process and the Koreas' efforts to declare a formal end to the Korean War.

South Korea hopes to proclaim the termination of the 1950-53 conflict by the year's end and start full-fledged discussions on lasting peace on the peninsula.

It views the U.N. General Assembly session to be held in New York in September as a good opportunity for a related ceremony.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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