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Friday, June 04, 2010

Defence ministers hold summit on Asian security - Summary

AvailableSingapore - South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on Friday urged the world community to take North Korea to task over the March sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, which claimed the lives of 46 sailors.

"Today, the Republic of Korea government referred the matter of North Korea's attack against the Cheonan to the United Nations Security Council," Lee told defence ministers and policymakers from 28 nations gathered for the largest dialogue on Asian security in Singapore.

Pyongyang had to "admit its wrongdoing and must pledge to never again engage in such reprehensible action," Lee said.

He called on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, noting that it was "never too late to embark on the path of mutual benefit."

The three-day 2010 Shangri-La Dialogue opened amid rising tensions and sabre rattling on the Korean Peninsula after the South, backed by the findings of a multinational investigation team, blamed the North of sinking the Cheonan with a torpedo.

Lee said South Korea was not seeking confrontation and war with the North, but together with the United States and other allies had to respond firmly.

The North Koreans "must understand very clearly that they have to suffer the consequences," said Lee.

The Stalinist regime in Pyongyang denied any involvement in the Cheonan incident and threatened to start an all-out war against the neighbouring South.

The present situation on the Korean Peninsula was so grave "that a war may break out at any moment," North Korean diplomat Ri Jang Gon told a United Nations forum on Thursday.

The North Korean threat was expected to rank high among the issues to be discussed in the Singapore summit's plenary sessions and at meetings on its sidelines.

Other topics to be addressed are security partnerships in the region and humanitarian and disaster relief in the Asia-Pacific.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates is scheduled to address the summit on Saturday.

The annual dialogue organized by the London-based non-governmental International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) represents the highest concentration of defence and security leaders in Asia.

Since its inaugural meeting in 2002, the summit has also expanded as a venue for diplomats from the United States and Europe.

Attendees are to include ministers and delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Britain, the United States and Vietnam.

The summit is scheduled to conclude on Sunday.

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