SEOUL, South Korea's defense ministry will host an annual international security forum in Seoul next week to discuss a wide range of issues, including the denuclearization of the peninsula, officials here said Tuesday.

The 7th vice-ministerial Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD) is set to take place from Wednesday through Friday with the attendance of some 250 people from 49 countries and four international organizations, such as the U.N. and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

North Korea has declined to attend the forum despite an invitation Seoul offered during the inter-Korean general-grade military talks in July, a source said.

Under the main theme of "Sustainable Peace: From Conflict to Cooperation," the SDD will have a series of sessions focusing on maritime security, cybersecurity, regional confidence building, prevention of violent extremism, disaster relief and other issues.

"The defense ministry will endeavor to make the SDD into a practical security forum striving to promote trust in the Asia-Pacific Region and contributing to regional peace and stability," the ministry said in a press release.

At the opening ceremony, Chung Eui-yong, a chief presidential security adviser, will deliver a keynote speech on the Seoul government's ongoing efforts to foster a lasting peace on the peninsula. His speech will follow congratulatory remarks by Defense Minister Song Young-moo.

On the sidelines of the forum, Seoul will host vice ministerial talks with participants from the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to seek cooperation with them over its "New Southern Policy" aimed at deepening ties with ASEAN.

Seoul will also hold a separate meeting with six Central Asian countries, including Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to discuss Seoul's Asia policy and expand defense cooperation with them.

In addition, Seoul is set to hold bilateral meetings with more than 20 countries to enhance defense cooperation, officials said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency