Southeast Asia issues strong rebuke, warning to N Korea

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Southeast Asia’s top diplomats slammed North Korea with a sharp rebuke Saturday over its intercontinental ballistic missile tests and admonished Pyongyang to comply with its duty of helping avert conflicts as a member of Asia’s biggest security forum.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers, however, were split on an American proposal to suspend Pyongyang from the Asean Regional Forum, a 27-nation bloc that includes North Korea and its bitter adversaries the US, South Korea and Japan.

The Asean ministers reiterated in a joint statement their grave concerns over the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula due to the North’s two ICBM tests last month, saying the launches threaten world stability. The ministers traditionally issue a communique containing their diverse concerns, and their issuance of a separate statement on North Korea’s missile tests and nuclear weapons programme reflects their deep worries about the issue.

“These developments seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world,” the ministers said in their statement. They urged the North to immediately and fully comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.

They also backed efforts to improve relations between the two Koreas and said their 10-nation bloc was ready “to play a constructive role in contributing to peace and stability” on the Korean Peninsula.

All the countries involved in the so-called six-party talks aimed at taming the North’s nuclear ambitions belong to the Asean Regional Forum, but Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said at a news conference Saturday that there was no plan for those nations to meet on the sidelines of the Manila meetings. North Korea pulled out of the talks — which also include South Korea, the US, China, Japan and Russia — in 2009 to protest international condemnation of a long-range rocket launch.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the ministers were divided over a US proposal to suspend the North from the Asean Regional Forum, which will hold its annual meeting tomorrow. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho will attend the meeting. With the US, Japan and South Korea expected to push for stronger actions against the North, a verbal showdown looms.

“There were views that, ‘How can we hear them out or confront them if they’re not there?’ But there’s also a view that we should give them an ultimatum,” Cayetano said late Friday after discussing the issue with other foreign ministers.

The ministers “strongly call upon” North Korea, as a member of the Asean Regional Forum, to help “maintain the Asia Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity”, according to the statement.

The opening ceremony of the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) was held at the Plenary Hall, Philippine International Convention (PICC), Pasay City, the Philippines, yesterday. The ceremony was attended by Foreign Ministers of Asean member states and spouses, Secretary-General of Asean, Asean senior officials as well as delegates. Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, was present as the head of the delegation from Brunei Darussalam. Photo shows Pehin Dato Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng in a group photo with other Asean leaders. - DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE PHILIPPINES
The opening ceremony of the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) was held at the Plenary Hall, Philippine International Convention (PICC), Pasay City, the Philippines, yesterday. The ceremony was attended by Foreign Ministers of Asean member states and spouses, Secretary-General of Asean, Asean senior officials as well as delegates. Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, was present as the head of the delegation from Brunei Darussalam. Photo shows Pehin Dato Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng in a group photo with other Asean leaders. – DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE PHILIPPINES
Asean Foreign Ministers take part in a meeting of the 50th Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) Regional Forum in Manila, Philippines. - AP
Asean Foreign Ministers take part in a meeting of the 50th Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) Regional Forum in Manila, Philippines. – AP