South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong speaks during the South Korea-ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting via video link at the foreign ministry in Seoul on Tuesday. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong on Tuesday requested the 10-member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations play a “constructive role” in resolving the issues on the Korean Peninsula.
Chung made the call during the South Korea-ASEAN meeting held virtually in the morning, where he discussed various issues, including responses to the pandemic and regional issues, as well as the inter-Korean relations.
During the meeting, Chung explained the recent developments in inter-Korean ties, including the restored communication channels between the two Koreas, and requested the ASEAN nations to play a “constructive role” for substantive progress in the efforts for the complete denuclearization of the peninsula and the establishment of lasting peace, according to the Foreign Ministry.
In response, the ASEAN members welcomed the reopening of the inter-Korean hotlines, and expressed support for inter-Korean talks, engagement and cooperation. They also vowed to work together for the early resumption of dialogue based on the inter-Korean and the US-North Korean agreements.
During the session, the two sides also vowed to work together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In our fight against COVID-19, no country is safe until every country is safe. Therefore, we need strong global solidarity and cooperation,” Chung said via video links at the start of meeting, noting that the pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and undermined global and regional stability.
He stressed that Seoul will work together with ASEAN members to overcome the pandemic, through fully investing in the priorities set out in Seoul’s signature New Southern Policy, and align them with the objectives of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework, the ASEAN-wide exit strategy from COVID-19.
The South Korea-ASEAN meeting marked the start of Chung’s weeklong virtual sessions with the Southeast Asian countries and other nations. The top envoy is taking part in four virtual sessions through Friday, including the ASEAN Plus Three meeting that involves top diplomats from China and Japan, the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
On Friday, Chung is to attend the ARF, the largest security conference in the Asia-Pacific region that brings together the top envoys from 27 countries, including the US, China, Russia and Japan.
North Korea will also likely attend the forum as it has in the previous years, raising speculation what messages the reclusive regime will deliver.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is also attending the ASEAN-led meetings this week, with plans to urge ASEAN members for full implementation of UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea, according to the State Department.
But on whether the US top diplomat will directly engage with his North Korean counterpart at the ARF, a State Department official said Blinken had no immediate plans to engage with North Korea on any particular issues.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org