A regional forum attended by 30 Asian nations opened in Seoul on Tuesday to discuss ways to close the information gap and increase economic and security cooperation between the countries, as well how to persuade North Korea to implement its commitments under a February disarmament agreement, Yonhap reported.
The opening ceremony of the sixth Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) was held at Seoul’s Shilla Hotel.
Attending the annual forum were foreign ministers and other ranking officials from 30 Asian nations, including China, Japan and Russia, Seoul’s dialogue partners in six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear ambition, in which the United States and the communist North also participate.
The regional forum also includes Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
First suggested in 2000 by then Thai Rak Thai Party Leader Dr. Thaksin Sinawatra, who later became Prime Minister of Thailand, the first ACD was held in in 2002. The ACD is the largest regional forum that addresses a wide range of issues, including environment and security issues, economic cooperation and freer trade among the members.
The participants at this year’s ministerial talks are hoping to adopt a joint declaration calling for increased efforts to narrow the digital divide between rich and the poor nations in the region, according to the Foreign Ministry.
"Enhancing cooperation in the IT sector will be the main theme of the ACD ministerial talks, and we plan to adopt a Seoul IT Declaration," Deputy Foreign Minister Shim Yoon-joe said last week.
Seoul is also hoping to rally the support of its Asian neighbors in pressuring Pyongyang to denuclearize.
In a six-nation agreement signed in February, the communist nation promised to shut down and eventually disable its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in exchange for energy and economic aids as well as political benefits.
North Korea, however, missed an April deadline to close down the Yongbyon complex, and says it will not do so until its US$25 million at a Macau bank under US restrictions is released.
Washington has agreed to the release of the funds via a North Korean account at a different bank, but has been unable to find a financial institute to handle the proposed transaction of the money that was once labeled "dirty" by the US
South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon held talks with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts over the weekend to discuss ways to pressure North Korea to start implementing the nuclear accord.
The ministers agreed the current impasse over the banking issue does not help North Korea or any other countries, and agreed to find a solution that can "overcome any legal or technical problems" facing the banking dispute, Song said Sunday following his meetings with Japan’s Taro Aso and China’s Yang Jiechi in the southern resort island of Jeju.
Song is scheduled to hold an official meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, later Tuesday to discuss bilateral issues, including the North Korean nuclear issue, Foreign Ministry officials said.