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ASEAN to back steps to denuclearize N. Korea

By Mayumi Oshige / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentSINGAPORE — Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were to agree to support efforts toward denuclearization of North Korea, in a meeting that started Thursday in Singapore.

Foreign ministers from Japan, the United States, China and North Korea are scheduled to take part in a series of meetings to be held through Saturday. In addition to the denuclearization issue, discussions are expected to focus on the South China Sea, where China is unilaterally building military strongholds.

According to a draft of the joint statement for the foreign ministerial meeting on Thursday, ASEAN was to support achieving “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula.

The joint statement was to say that ASEAN would pay attention to “concerns” expressed by some countries regarding the South China Sea, without identifying China by name.

They were also to welcome the progress of negotiations between China and ASEAN over a code of conduct as part of efforts to prevent conflicts.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho is expected to visit Singapore on Friday and attend the ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum, or ARF, on Saturday.

While concrete steps have yet to be taken following the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting in June, close attention is being paid to whether U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Ri.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who arrived in Singapore on Wednesday, is expected to seek cooperation from his counterparts on the denuclearization of North Korea, while also seeking to hold a meeting with Ri.Speech

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