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NEWS UPDATES 6 July 2010

S.Korea to urge Asean on N. Korea

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July 15, 2008
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South Korea will urge Asia's biggest security forum to condemn North Korea for the deadly sinking of a warship when it meets in Vietnam this month, officials said Tuesday.

Foreign ministers from the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), possibly including North Korea's representative, will hold their annual meeting in Hanoi on July 23.

Officials quoted by Yonhap news agency said South Korea wants the ARF to adopt a strongly worded statement censuring the North for the torpedo attack that killed 46 sailors in March.

The key to such a statement is support from host Vietnam, they said.

South Korea and Vietnam held economic cooperation talks in Seoul last Friday at which the South sought Vietnamese support for the statement, unidentified officials were quoted as saying.

Regional tensions have risen sharply since May when the South, citing the findings of a multinational investigation, accused the North of torpedoing the ship.

The South has asked the UN Security Council to condemn its neighbour but is facing resistance from the North's ally China.

North Korea denies any hand in the sinking and accuses the South and the United States of using the incident as a pretext for aggression.

The officials quoted by Yonhap said the North's Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun is expected to attend this year's session, meaning the ARF could see the first face-to-face debate between the two Koreas since the tragedy.

"Since the ASEAN Regional Forum is where countries in the region discuss major security issues, the sinking of the South Korean warship should unquestionably be addressed this time," a foreign ministry official told AFP.

"But it remains flexible how the forum will handle the case, namely to what extent and in what form discussions should be held."

The official, who is involved in ARF preparations, said the North may send its foreign minister but "it often holds back such confirmation until the very last minute". The North enjoys friendly ties with ARF members Myanmar and Laos.

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