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FM Kang heads to Munich for security forum

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha heads to Munich, Germany from Incheon International Airport on Thursday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha heads to Munich, Germany from Incheon International Airport on Thursday.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha left for Germany on Thursday to attend the Munich Security Forum.

During the annual three-day security conference from Friday through Sunday, Kang is set to speak about South Korean diplomacy to strengthen multilateralism, as a panel member at the conference’s main session.

While in Munich, the minister could hold bilateral or trilateral meetings with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who are also attending the event. In January, the three had met in San Francisco, where they discussed mainly North Korea and outstanding bilateral issues.

“If I get a chance, we will address some pending issues and we have a lot to discuss in regard to the SMA negotiations and the situation in the Korean Peninsula,” Kang told reporters at Incheon Airport before boarding her flight, when asked what she planned to talk about with Pompeo.

She was referring to the Special Measures Agreement, a bilateral deal on sharing the cost of stationing the 28,500-strong US Forces Korea here. The US and Korea have not stuck a deal yet despite negotiating for a while.

Regarding the latest shuffle of key US officials in charge of North Korea, she said “it shouldn’t be a concern,” referring to worries that the changes could cause a diplomatic void in efforts related to the North.

“Deputy Secretary of State (Stephen) Biegun is taking a leading role and is ready for communication with North Korea on various occasions,” she said. “We are sharing that US stance through various communication channels.”

During her visit, Kang is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of many countries at the conference, though the ministry has not confirmed her exact schedule.

If Kang’s meeting with Japan’s Motegi happens, the ongoing trade row and a bilateral key intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, the General Security of Military Information Agreement, are expected to top the agenda.

“We have our basic position in regard to GSOMIA,” she said. “What we are requesting from Japan is for the trade restrictions to return to the situation before July 1. With that principle, we will continue to consult.”

On July 1, 2019, Japan tightened export controls of key chemicals for semiconductors to Korea. In response, Seoul initially decided to terminate the military pact with Tokyo last November, but it later decided to conditionally maintain the pact while calling for Japan to retract its export curbs.

Kang added she was planning to discuss the global issue of the novel coronavirus with other participants of the conference, as well as the P4G summit that Korea is hosting this year.

The annual MSC brings together presidents, prime ministers and foreign and defense ministers from more than 70 countries, as well as representatives from business and international organizations.

Confirmed participants include French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son-gyong was to attend the conference but canceled his plans, a decision viewed as reflecting concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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