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(News Focus) S. Korean defense chief seeks int'l support for NK denuclearization

2017/10/24 18:24

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By Lee Chi-dong

CLARK, Philippines, Oct. 24 (Yonhap) -- Making his international debut this week, South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo focused on drumming up support for Seoul's efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.

He had a hectic round of bilateral and multilateral talks in Clark, the Philippines, the venue for the 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) and the 4th ADMM-Plus.

For the minister, who took office in mid-July, the two-day event served as an opportunity to introduce himself to the multilateral security diplomacy stage.

His top priority was to deepen coordination on North Korea, huddling with his regional counterparts.

"As the Republic of Korea's defense minister, I urge North Korea to immediately halt reckless provocations that lead to its own isolation and collapse," he told the plenary session of the ADMM-Plus on Tuesday.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo listens to a foreign reporter's question at the ASEAN Convention Center in Clark, the Philippines, the venue for the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus, on Oct. 23, 2017. (Yonhap) South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo listens to a foreign reporter's question at the ASEAN Convention Center in Clark, the Philippines, the venue for the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus, on Oct. 23, 2017. (Yonhap)

It was also joined by the defense chiefs of the ASEAN member states and seven other dialogue partners: the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The minister stressed that the North's nuclear weapons and missiles pose the biggest threat to the Korean Peninsula and the Asia-Pacific region.

He listed the communist neighbor's provocative acts from ballistic missile launches to a sixth nuclear test.

"Accordingly, the international community should bolster cooperation more than any other time and show a unified response," he added. "The South Korean government will deal strongly with North Korea's provocation and make all efforts to manage the situation with stability in order to prevent tensions on the Korean Peninsula from turning into an armed conflict."

  

The defense chiefs of ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners -- South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand -- link arms at a security forum in Clark, the Philippines, on Oct. 24, 2017, in this photo taken by AFP. (Yonhap) The defense chiefs of ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners -- South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand -- link arms at a security forum in Clark, the Philippines, on Oct. 24, 2017, in this photo taken by AFP. (Yonhap)

Most of the other participants voiced grave concerns about the escalation of tensions on the peninsula and called on Pyongyang to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions, the South Korean defense ministry said in a statement summarizing Song's activity at the forum.

On Monday, Song held back-to-back bilateral meetings with Japan's Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis. They later had trilateral talks.

They agreed to take the necessary steps to bolster their ability to improve information sharing and strengthen responses to the North's threats, according to a joint press statement.

The ministers also "pledged to actively cooperate to support diplomatic-led efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through maximum pressure on North Korea," it added.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (L) poses for a photo with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts James Mattis and Itsunori Onodera during their meeting in Clark, the Philippines, on Oct. 23, 2017, in this photo provided by Song's ministry. (Yonhap) South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo (L) poses for a photo with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts James Mattis and Itsunori Onodera during their meeting in Clark, the Philippines, on Oct. 23, 2017, in this photo provided by Song's ministry. (Yonhap)

It was the first group meeting of the three ministers, although Song and Mattis met each other at the Pentagon in late August.

In their second meeting here, they confirmed "personal chemistry" and built up mutual trust, Song's aides said.

Song served as the Navy chief of staff and Mattis is a retired Marine Corps general.

Song also met with China's Defense Minister Chang Wanquan in what may be a breakthrough in efforts to improve the ties between the neighboring countries. It was the first defense ministerial talks between the two sides in two years.

China is strongly opposed to the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system in South Korea.

The other key agenda items of the ADMM-Plus include maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, cybersecurity and the fight against terrorism.

Launched in 2010, the ADMM is fast growing as a top security consultation channel in the ASEAN. It has been held every two or three years.

Some member countries are pushing for an annual session. Singapore, next year's chair of the ASEAN meetings, plans to host the 12th ADMM and the 5th ADMM-Plus in 2018.

Many say the ADMM-Plus, organized by ASEAN countries, has great potential to develop further.

The Asia Security Summit, better known as the Shanggri-La Dialogue, is a similar defense forum held in Singapore each year. It's organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank and, in China's case, a general-level defense official usually leads its delegation to the dialogue.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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