ASEAN diplomatic chiefs will use this week's international security forum in Vietnam to push for a resumption of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said Wednesday they hope to take advantage of the presence in Hanoi of North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun. Pak is the most senior North Korean official to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in 10 years.
All six countries involved in the nuclear talks will attend Friday's forum, bringing North Korea into direct contact with South Korea and the United States for the first time since the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March. Russia, China and Japan round out the six-party talks.
The United States and South Korea have said Pyongyang must apologize for the Cheonan sinking before six-party talks can resume. North Korea denies any involvement.
ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters on Wednesday that foreign ministers from the group felt it was significant that all six participants in the Korean talks will attend the ARF meeting. He said ASEAN is telling them they should not miss the opportunity this provides.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the group wants to be sure to create conditions conducive to resolving the Korean problem.
A draft resolution to be presented to the 27 ARF ministers condemns the sinking of the Cheonan but does not blame any particular country. South Korea wanted a direct condemnation of Pyongyang, but China resisted the inclusion of such language in an earlier U.N. Security Council resolution.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the forum. On Wednesday in Seoul, she announced new sanctions aimed at punishing North Korea over the Cheonan sinking.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP