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N. Korean foreign minister not to attend ASEAN security forum

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho (Kyodo)

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho has decided not to participate in this year's ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok in August, diplomatic sources said Thursday.

As denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been at a standstill, speculation has grown that Ri and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could hold direct talks on the sidelines of the Aug. 2 meeting.

Foreign ministers from nearly 30 countries -- including China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- are expected to join the annual regional security gathering.

It is one of the very few multilateral events attended by North Korea's foreign minister almost every year.

South Korean media reported that it is rare for a North Korean foreign minister to skip the forum, adding another high-ranking official is likely to take part in the gathering.

At their meeting at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom on June 30, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed that the two countries would resume denuclearization negotiations within weeks.

Pyongyang, however, has recently criticized Washington and Seoul for going ahead with carrying out their joint military exercise as scheduled in August.

On Thursday morning, North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan off its east coast, the South's military said, in an apparent bid to push the United States and the South toward suspending the drill.

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