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ASEAN balks at tough actions vs. NoKor

The Association of South East Asian Nations balked at taking tough actions against North Korea despite calls from the United States to isolate and suspend diplomatic engagements with Pyongyang for defying international calls to stop its ballistic missile testing, a joint statement issued by ASEAN ministers on Saturday said.

Instead, the ASEAN, in a standalone statement, only reiterated its “grave concern over the escalation of tensions” in the Korean Peninsula due to North Korea’s most recent testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) on July 4 and 28 and previous ballistic missile launches and two nuclear tests in 2016.

The issuance of a separate statement apart from its usual joint communique at the end of their meeting reflects the ASEAN’s grave concern on the North Korea tensions, which they said threatens regional peace and security.

“These developments seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world. In this regard, we strongly urge the DPRK to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions,” the ASEAN statement statement said.

DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.

“We reiterate our support for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, call for the exercise of self-restraint, and underscore the importance of creating conditions conducive for dialogue to de-escalate tensions,” the statement added.

The Philippines, the current rotating chairman of the 10-member regional bloc, is hosting the ASEAN ministers ministerial meeting and an expanded regional security forum next week that includes 17 dialogue partners, such as the US, Japan, China, Australia, Russia, South Korea and North Korea.

Washington has called on the ASEAN and its partners, who will gather in Manila for their annual security meeting on Monday, called the ASEAN regional forum (ARF), to downgrade ties with and isolate North Korea.

The US also said that it is considering asking the ASEAN to suspend North Korea’s membership to the forum.

ASEAN groups the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.

Some ministers favor tougher stance

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said that some ministers were in favor of taking a tougher stance against North Korea, while some are open to continue engaging the reclusive state.

ASEAN decides by consensus, meaning a veto by one of its members can block a proposal.

As a participant of the ARF, ASEAN ministers strongly called on North Korea “to positively contribute to realize the forum’s vision to maintain the Asia-Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity.”

They also called on Pyongyang to abide by the ARF’s principles of mutual trust, appreciation and respect “to overcome security threats and challenges and prevent escalation of potential conflicts.”

North Korea, it added, should cooperate  in creating “an environment conducive to sustainable development, social progress and improved quality of life for all peoples in the region.

North Korea’s successive missile testing triggered deep concern from the international community, particularly from Washington. The US said Pyongyang’s missiles poses a great risk due to its capability to strike the US mainland.

ASEAN’s statement came as the United Nations Security Council is set to vote on imposing new sanctions on North Korea.

“We support initiatives to improve inter-Korean relations towards
establishing permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula. ASEAN stands
ready to play a constructive role in contributing to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula,” the statement said. —with John Ted Cordero/LBG/ALG, GMA News