SINGAPORE • North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho turned down a request for a formal bilateral meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha on the sidelines of an annual regional forum in Singapore on Friday, a South Korean official said.
Dr Kang encountered Mr Ri at a working dinner for Asean-led ministerial meetings and once again suggested a bilateral meeting, but the North's top diplomat said it was not the right time for such talks, according to the official from Seoul's Foreign Ministry.
"Kang and Ri met each other and exchanged considerably candid opinions on various situations in the wake of the inter-Korean summit and the US-North Korea summit," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity without elaborating what was discussed between the two.
"A separate bilateral meeting foundered, but we had a chance to understand the other side and deliver our thoughts through contact at the working dinner," he said.
Amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to lead North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme, South Korea has sought to hold an inter-Korean foreign ministerial meeting on the sidelines of yesterday's Asean Regional Forum, the only multilateral regional forum of which Pyongyang is a member.
Mr Ri, who arrived in Singapore on Friday, held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from seven countries including China, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia, according to Mr Jong Song Il, North Korea's former ambassador to Singapore. The two Koreas hope to declare an end to the Korean War within the year as agreed at the April 27 inter-Korean summit, which they believe could be the first step towards building trust.
KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK