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S. Korea, Southeast Asia must ‘join forces’ to counter N. Korea: Yoon

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Jakarta, Indonesia — South Korea and Southeast Asian nations must “join forces” to respond to North Korea’s nuclear threats, president Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday, as Washington warned Pyongyang’s leader was set to make a rare trip to Russia for arms talks.

Yoon will meet with counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta on Wednesday after their leaders’ summit, before attending the 18-nation East Asia Summit the following day which Russia will also attend.

In an interview with Indonesian newspaper Kompas, Yoon said North Korea’s missile launches “pose a direct and existential threat” not only to South Korea but also to its Southeast Asian allies.

“In times like these, the Republic of Korea and ASEAN must join forces to respond decisively and cooperate closely on North Korea’s denuclearisation,” Yoon said.

“ASEAN-ROK solidarity and cooperation must be enhanced further, so the rules-based international order will be able to take firm root in the Indo-Pacific region.”

ASEAN members and South Korea are expected to adopt a joint statement on regional cooperation, which Yoon said would underline the leaders’ push for a “free, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific”.

The United States said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expects to make a rare trip to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss arms deals.

Kim is reported to be seeking advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines as well as food aid for his impoverished nation, while the US last week warned Moscow was seeking munitions and supplies for its war effort in Ukraine.

Pyongyang drew condemnation from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo in July when it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile as top diplomats met on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Jakarta.

In a draft communique of the ASEAN summit seen by AFP, the bloc noted that a recent surge of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile launches was a “worrisome development” that threatens regional peace.

The draft communique emphasised the importance of “peaceful dialogue” among all parties and reiterated the bloc’s readiness to play a “constructive role” in achieving peace in the Korean peninsula.

At the East Asia Summit, Moscow will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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