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Warmongering Precedes Phuket's Next Big Event

Thursday, June 25, 2009
PHUKET will bounce from the frivolity of Fashion Week to the nuclear-charged Asia Regional Forum in mid-July, an event that could be full of fireworks.

Today marks the 59th anniversary of the Korean War, a conflict that appears in danger of being revived if the latest outburst from Communist North Korea is any guide.

''If the US imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will . . . . wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all, '' said the official Korean Central News Agency in a sentence hardly inclined to fuel friendship.

The Thai Foreign Ministry has told officials that 26 countries have confirmed their participation in the series of Phuket meetings, with one exception: North Korea.

No stranger to being a nation alone, diplomatic isolation has deepened for the hardline Communist state since its second nuclear test on May 25.

More missiles are ready for testing, reports say, with a firing perhaps towards Hawaii anticipated for US Independence Day celebrations on July 4.

Meanwhile, the North Korean cargo ship, the Kang Nam, is somewhere at sea nearing Singapore, with a US destroyer close behind.

If the vessel is on a voyage to Burma with secret weapons on board, experts say it will probably have to refuel, and Singapore is the likely port.

Under a UN resolution, the ship can be boarded and searched. But the last time the Kang Nam was searched amid similar suspicions back in 2006, the ship was empty.

On the horizon, Phuket's potential as a site for talks to resolve the nuclear standoff loom larger every day.

Arthayudh Srisamoot, deputy director-general of the Thai Foreign Ministry's Asean bureau, told the Yonhap News Agency: ''Due to the uncertain situation on the Korean Peninsula, we are awaiting confirmation whether the DPRK (North Korea)'s foreign minister will come, but it is our hope that he does.

''He will make significant contribution to the ARF talks.''

Before the standoff, Khun Arthayudh anticipated that North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would both be on Phuket, possibly setting the stage for their first meeting.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya planned to visit the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to discuss details of North Korea's participation.

But Khun Kasit has canceled the trip, the official said, without clarifying the reason.

Diplomatic sources in South Korea told the Yonhap News Agency that the North appears to have rejected his visit in anger over Asean's condemnation of its nuclear test and missile launches.

Phuket provides North Korea's foreign minister with a rare opportunity to mingle with his 10 counterparts from Asean and its dialogue partners: Australia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, India, the European Union, New Zealand, the US and Russia.

The other participants are Mongolia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.

Burma and North Korea, both severely criticised internationally for human rights abuses, restored diplomatic relations in 2007.

Burma severed ties in 1983 following a failed assassination attempt by North Korean agents on then South Korean president Chun Doo-Hwan during a visit to Rangoon.

The bombing killed 17 of Chun's entourage, including cabinet ministers. Four Burmese officials also died.

Phuket's Asia Regional Forum, incorporating Asean and other group meetings from July 16-23, will centre on the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket.

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Monday October 14, 2019
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