Six-party ministers to be present at Asean forumTop foreign affairs envoys from the nations involved in the six-party talks, with the exception of Russia, are scheduled to participate in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) security dialogue this weekend in Myanmar, drawing attention to whether a stronger message may be conveyed concerning the denuclearization of North Korea.
Because the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) offers a rare chance for the five foreign ministers from the six-party countries to meet, the possibilities for talks on its sidelines have also piqued interest.
The six-party talks were originally formed with the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States, with the aim of convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions and to resolve security concerns on the Peninsula. North Korea pulled out of the talks late 2008.
There is also speculation on whether South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, who arrived in Myanmar yesterday to attend the summit, will hold bilateral talks with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Su-yong, who is expected to arrive in the capital Naypyitaw today.
Ri, a former ambassador to Switzerland who took over as North Korea’s foreign minister in April, is making his debut on the international diplomatic stage at the ministerial-level summit, to be held Saturday and Sunday.
Pyongyang’s threat of a fourth nuclear test, territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas and the crisis in Ukraine are expected to be key agenda items this weekend.
While it is unlikely that Yun will propose a dialogue with Ri first, Seoul is still open should Pyongyang step up to propose bilateral talks. Ri is also expected to seek talks with China, Mongolia, Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries.
Whether Yun and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will hold talks on the sidelines of the forum is also being closely watched amid continued strain between the two neighboring countries.
It they do meet, it would mark 11 months since they last held talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September in New York.
President Park Geun-hye has yet to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since assuming office, the result of ongoing tensions surrounding historical and territorial concerns.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]