Park will not meet with Abe and Xi

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Park will not meet with Abe and Xi

President Park Geun-hye has no plans to hold separate bilateral talks with her counterparts from China and Japan at this week’s global conference, the Blue House said Thursday, despite escalating tensions over the confrontation between China and the United States.

Park left for the Mongolian capital city of Ulaanbaatar in the afternoon to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit.

“Park’s trip will focus on strengthening international cooperation to resolve various challenges that Korea is facing including the North Korean nuclear crisis and trade protectionism,” Kim Kyou-hyun, senior foreign affairs and security secretary to the president, said Thursday.

Kim cited Korea’s major challenges as being security threats from the North, tension in the South China Sea, an increase of terrorist attacks and violent extremism in the Middle East and the instability of the world financial market. The trip is Park’s first visit to Mongolia since she took the office in 2013. She will attend the ASEM summit on Friday and Saturday. The upcoming ASEM summit is the 11th of its kind, and leaders of Asia and Europe will discuss various issues concerning the economy, terrorism, security and climate change.

The meeting of international leaders takes place at a sensitive time concerning the security of Northeast Asia. Tensions escalated rapidly between South Korea and China after Seoul agreed to the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, which Beijing said could be used to spy on China.

Seoul is also trying to remain neutral toward the ruling on the South China Sea dispute by an international tribunal in The Hague that rejected Beijing’s claim over the resource-rich waters. Washington, which has insisted on “freedom of navigation” in the waters, has pressured Seoul to take a strong stance opposing Beijing’s claim.

Asked if she will sit down separately with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang or Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kim said, “there are no plans for now.”

On the sidelines of the international conference, Park will have bilateral summits with leaders of the European Union, Vietnam and Laos. Starting Sunday, Park will begin her two-day official visit to the country, including a summit with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj. A business forum between Korea and Mongolia is also planned.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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