Korean foreign ministers may hold separate talks in Singapore

Dr Kang Kyung-wha (above) and Mr Ri Yong Ho will attend the Asean Regional Forum this week.
Dr Kang Kyung-wha (above) and Mr Ri Yong Ho will attend the Asean Regional Forum this week.
Dr Kang Kyung-wha (above) and Mr Ri Yong Ho will attend the Asean Regional Forum this week.
Dr Kang Kyung-wha and Mr Ri Yong Ho (above) will attend the Asean Regional Forum this week.

SEOUL • South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is seeking to arrange a separate meeting with her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho when both are in Singapore this week for the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), according to the Yonhap news agency.

The ARF taking place on Saturday will be the first time North Korea's Foreign Minister meets his counterparts from Asean and other partners since the warming of ties between the two Koreas as well as between Pyongyang and Washington this year.

The ARF is the only Asia-Pacific consultative group in which North Korea is a member.

It follows other Asean-related sessions, including an Asean-South Korea foreign ministers' meeting on Friday, and Asean Plus Three and East Asia Summit (EAS) talks the next day.

North Korea is expected to send Mr Ri to the ARF, Yonhap reported yesterday. He represented North Korea at last year's ARF, which was held in Manila.

Mr Ri was part of the North Korean delegation when Mr Kim Jong Un, who is chairman of North Korea's State Affairs Commission, travelled to Singapore in June for his widely watched summit with US President Donald Trump.

If the foreign ministers of the two Koreas were to meet, it would be the first such meeting in 11 years. Then South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon met his North Korean counterpart Park Ui Chun in 2007, reported the Donga Ilbo.

Dr Kang is also likely to sit together with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will be in Singapore for the EAS, which groups Asean and dialogue partners China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Russia.

It remains unclear whether Mr Ri and Mr Pompeo will hold bilateral or trilateral talks involving Dr Kang.

The Donga Ilbo said expectations are rising that the possible talks could inject fresh impetus into the denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

If the tripartite meeting is realised, it could provide a chance for discussions on declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, according to Yonhap.

The Donga Ilbo said the creation of a working group for denuclearisation could be on the agenda.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2018, with the headline 'Korean foreign ministers may hold separate talks in Singapore'. Print Edition | Subscribe