North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong today left Pyongyang for the ASEAN forum in Malaysia.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, Ri will give a speech at the forum, though there is no indication there will be any meetings between the two Koreas at the event.
“(South Korea) are open to dialogue with North Korea but nothing specific was set,” Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman said in a statement posted on their website.
Representatives from ASEAN declined to comment on the news.
The ASEAN event is a regional security forum attended by ministers primarily from around Asia, but also includes representatives from the U.S., Europe and Russia.
The delegates will address issues of mutual concern in Asia and attempt to build trust, according the ASEAN forum’s website.
Japan’s Kyodo News today reported Japanese ministers at the conference would try to meet with Ri in an attempt to move forward with the issue of DPRK abductions of Japanese citizens between 1977-83.
Last year Pyongyang agreed it would present Japan with an investigation into the long-standing issue of abductions, which has remained a barrier to improving relations between the two countries.
Although North Korea did not meet their deadline, Tokyo will reportedly attempt to use the conference to get the abduction issue back on track by September.
Ri is not the only senior official headed out of North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) yesterday announced the DPRK’s de facto head of state Kim Yong Nam will attend the opening of the newly upgraded Suez Canal in Egypt.
The short announcement claims Kim was invited by the Egyptian president. The $8 billion-overhaul was completed two years ahead of schedule and will allow for significantly more traffic to flow through the vital shipping artery.
North Korean ships are infrequently seen that far from the DPRK, however, with the last DPRK-flagged vessel seen around Africa causing a media firestorm when it loaded oil from a hijacked refinery in Libya.
The vessel was later found to have bought a North Korean flag, though was not otherwise associated with the DPRK.
Additional reporting by Ina Yoon
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Featured Image: Kuala Lumpur tilt-shift by Andy_Mitchell_UK on 2009-03-03 12:57:40