ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Japanese FM heads to Philippines for ASEAN, ARF meetings
Attention will be on discussions by the 27-member ASEAN Regional Forum on August 2 about the North Korean nuclear standoff, a key security concern in the region, in light of recent positive developments in denuclearizing North Korea.
There may also be a brief contact between Japanese and North Korean foreign ministers on the sidelines of the ARF, of which North Korea is a member, as new North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun is expected to attend the ARF for the first time.
Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said the ARF holds significance as a venue for discussions with North Korea as this is the only multilateral forum involving North Korea apart from the United Nations and the six-nation talks on the country's denuclearization.
"We hope that North Korean issues will be appropriately discussed" in terms of its denuclearization, one of the officials said, adding Japan also hopes to raise bilateral issues with North Korea such as Pyongyang's past abductions of Japanese nationals.
In a draft of an ARF statement to be issued Thursday, the ministers will welcome North Korea's recent announcement that it will completely declare all its nuclear programs and shut its nuclear facilities under a six-party accord in February.
The draft, obtained by Kyodo News, says the ministers will also reiterate their support for the six-party talks that involve the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the United States. The chief delegates of the six parties met in Beijing earlier this month and agreed on the schedules for the succeeding six-party meetings.
The ARF is an annual forum on security in the Asia-Pacific region that was initiated by ASEAN in 1994. ARF comprises the 10 members of ASEAN -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- plus Australia, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, the United States, Russia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Japan, China and India. Sri Lanka is the newest member.
The first multilateral meeting Aso is scheduled to attend is the East Asia Summit foreign ministers' meeting Tuesday where climate change and energy will be the major topics, the officials said.
He will then meet with his counterparts from ASEAN, China and South Korea under the ASEAN-plus-three framework to discuss the second joint statement on East Asia Cooperation that is scheduled to be adopted in November in Singapore.
On August 1, he will attend the ASEAN post-ministerial conference which gathers the EAS member nations and four dialogue partners --the United States, Russia, Canada and the European Union.
Bilaterally, Aso is set to meet with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi. The two are expected to reaffirm their cooperation over North Korea's denuclearization and continue to expedite efforts to compile by fall a plan to jointly develop the disputed gas fields to resolve their row over gas exploration rights in the East China Sea, the officials said.
With his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee, Aso is expected to lay the groundwork for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to India next month, the officials said. Aso is also scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his counterparts from the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Kyodo