(LEAD) S. Korea kicks off annual defense forum with space and cybersecurity talks

SEOUL, South Korea's defense ministry opened an annual international defense forum in Seoul on Tuesday for talks on promoting peace and cooperation against regional and global security challenges.

The three-day Seoul Defense Dialogue got under way to bring together some 800 security officials and civil experts from 56 countries, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union, including minister-level officials from Australia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Brunei and Fiji.

The forum will hold an opening ceremony Wednesday, and three key plenary sessions through Thursday for talks on the international community's response to North Korea's escalating nuclear threats; efforts for a free, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region; and ways for regional and global cooperation in a new security environment.

On the first day of the forum, the ministry hosted the Space Security Working Group and the Cyber Working Group for talks on space security and defense policies and ways to strengthen cybersecurity in defense.

It marked the second session of the working group on space since its launch last year, and the eighth edition of the working group on cyberthreats.

During the talks on space security, Deputy Minister for Defense Policy Heo Tae-keun said South Korea is continuing efforts to strengthen its space capabilities, noting the possibility of space cooperation between North Korea and Russia is emerging as a "serious" threat to global space security.

Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit at the Vostochny spaceport in far eastern Russia, raising speculation over cooperation in space.

Four special sessions will also be held Wednesday to discuss ways to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, the global defense industry's outlook, the use of artificial intelligence in combat and the signing of the 1950-53 Korean War's armistice as it marks its 70th anniversary this year.

The annual forum was first launched in 2012 for talks on promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula and enhancing regional security cooperation.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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