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NATO’s No. 2 to join Asia security forum amid N. Korea nuclear woes

BEIJING — NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller will attend a major security forum in Asia next month, aiming to bolster the Western alliance’s ties with the region amid lingering fears about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, a diplomatic source said Sunday.


It will be the first time for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which primarily focused on the Euro-Atlantic area, to send such a high-ranking official to the Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, scheduled for June 1-3 in Singapore, the source added.


NATO is taking the gathering as an “excellent opportunity” to promote talks with Asian nations at a higher level at a time when the region is facing many challenges, among them cyber and maritime security as well as North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.


In recent years, China’s military rise has also prompted NATO to become more involved in Asia-Pacific region, which its westernmost members Canada and the United States are part of, foreign affairs experts say.


At the 17th annual meeting, defense ministers, their deputies and other senior military officials from around 40 countries, including the United States and those in Asia and Europe, are certain to discuss regional security issues.


The 29-member NATO has been deepening relations with countries outside the Euro-Atlantic region like Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, designating them as “global partners.”


Late last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Tokyo and met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at which time they stressed the importance of the international community maintaining maximum pressure on North Korea.


Stoltenberg said Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs “pose a global threat,” with concerns growing that North Korea has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach Europe.


While confirming that NATO and Japan will strengthen security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, Stoltenberg and Abe also agreed to work in tandem to enhance defenses against cyberattacks and fight against terrorism.


At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Gottemoeller is expected to exchange views with Asian defense officials about the situation in the South and East China Seas, where Beijing has been involved in increasingly tense territorial disputes with its neighbors.


As China is planning to send the delegation to the gathering, Gottemoeller may hold talks with Beijing.


The Asia Security Summit, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, has taken place every year in Singapore since 2002.


All eyes are on whether U.S., Asian and European defense officials will show their unity in achieving “complete” denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. At the dialogue, defense officials are slated to discuss the thorny issue at a session on June 2.


Gottemoeller took up her position as NATO’s No. 2 in October 2016, prior to which she served as an undersecretary at the U.S. State Department, handling arms control issues, for around five years.


NATO was founded by 12 original member states in 1949 as a military alliance to protect Western Europe against the threat from the now-defunct Soviet Union. Its headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.


Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty stipulates that an attack on one or more its member states is considered an attack against the whole alliance, and help can be extended to allies that are attacked.

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