South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo arrived in the Philippines on Monday to join a high-level regional security forum.
North Korea will be among the agenda items at the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Clark, Pampanga, about two hours north of Manila.
The two-day session to open later in the day brings together defense chiefs of Southeast Asian nations and their eight dialogue partners: South Korea, the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Australia, India and New Zealand.
This will be Song's debut at a multilateral security conference as South Korea's defense minister. He took office in July.
He plans to hold bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera and a trilateral meeting also involving U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the sidelines of the ADMM-Plus.
"It's expected to serve as an opportunity to strengthen international cooperation on the denuclearization of North Korea and deepen defense ties with Asia-Pacific nations," his ministry said in a statement.
The three regional powers held their previous tripartite defense ministerial talks in Singapore in early June, when they participated in the Asia Security Summit, better known as the Shanggri-La Dialogue. Song's predecessor Han Min-koo attended it.
Song is also pushing for a one-on-one meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, according to his aides.
|South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo in an undated file photo (Yonhap)|
"The two sides are expected to hold talks, but the exact time has not been set yet amid hectic meeting schedules," a ministry official said.
If held, they would mark the first bilateral talks between the defense ministers of the neighboring countries in more than two years.
Seoul hopes to mend ties with Beijing, which is upset about the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system on the peninsula.
The ADMM-Plus, launched in 2010, is held every two or three years. This week's meeting is the fourth of its kind and involves Russia, Australia, India and New Zealand, as well as other countries from the region.
The event will be held, along with the 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting.
The participants will be united in voicing grave concern about North Korea's nuclear and missile program, according to a draft of their joint declaration.
They will also urge Pyongyang to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at punishing the regime for its provocations.
In the broader ADMM-Plus session, the attendees will likely seek a similar joint declaration.
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