Diplomatic offensive at ARF forum

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Diplomatic offensive at ARF forum

Seoul wants to persuade Asia’s biggest security group to condemn Pyongyang for its alleged role in the March 26 sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, according to South Korean officials yesterday.

During the 17th Asean Regional Forum to be held in Hanoi on July 23, Seoul officials will try to persuade other Asian countries to join its censure of the North for the sinking that killed 46 South Korean sailors. Officials quoted by Yonhap News Agency said Seoul wants the ARF to adopt a strongly worded statement reprimanding Pyongyang.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and counterparts from 25 nations in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to attend the forum. The 27 ARF members are Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, East Timor, the U.S., Vietnam and the European Union.

Seoul has been using an array of international meetings, including the June 4-6 Asia Security summit in Singapore and the June 26-27 G-20 Summit in Toronto, to get international support against North Korea. The upcoming Asean Regional Forum in Vietnam will be the first attended by North Korean officials as well. The North’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun is expected to represent the country at the meeting, said Seoul officials.

During the 2008 ARF meeting, Seoul campaigned hard to get a chairman’s statement that explicitly condemned Pyongyang for shooting and killing a South Korean tourist at a North Korean resort in July 2008.

But Pyongyang’s diplomats managed to get their own argument in the statement, prompting South Korean officials to end the campaign. As a result, none of the arguments from either side made it into the group’s final statement.

By Jung Ha-won [hawon@joongang.co.kr]
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