Asean ministers express ‘grave concerns’ over North Korea's missiles, nuclear tests

(From left) Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Myanmar Minister of State of Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin, Thailand Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Sing
(From left) Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Myanmar Minister of State of Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin, Thailand Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Brunei's Foreign Minister Lim Jock Seng, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Laos' Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith and Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh join hands for a family photo before a meeting of the 50th Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Centre in Manila on Aug 5, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being lauched at an undisclosed place in North Korea, on July 28, 2017.
North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being lauched at an undisclosed place in North Korea, on July 28, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - South-east Asia’s foreign ministers on Saturday (Aug 5) expressed “grave concerns” over North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles tests that have deepened global fears.

In a statement, the ministers said the missiles and nuclear tests “seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world”.

Besides urging North Korea to “comply fully” with United Nations Security Council resolutions, they also backed the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner".

They called for “self-restraint” and underscored the importance of “creating conditions conducive for dialogue to de-escalate tensions”.

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There was also a push for North Korea, as a member of  the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), to comply with its aim “to maintain the Asia-Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity”.

The ministers began their meetings here on Saturday (Aug 5) with a push for a consensus on what to do with Pyongyang, which has defied sanctions and dismissed calls to further isolate it, by conducting two missiles tests recently.

“Asean wants to deliver a strong message to North Korea regarding our concerns in the Korean peninsula,” Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano earlier told reporters.

Mr Cayetano and his fellow Asean ministers met late on Friday (Aug 4) night in a “huddle” ahead of the opening ceremonies of their formal meetings on Saturday.

He said the ministers also discussed calls from the United States to “downgrade diplomatic engagements and exchanges” with Pyongyang.

“(The Americans) actually did not submit a formal proposal, so it was just announced. But as expected, there were views that, ‘How can we hear (the North Koreans) out or confront them if they’re not there?’” he said.

North Korea is expected to join 26 other nations when the ARF meets on Monday (Aug 7).

The US and China - the North’s main ally - have been wrestling with how best to respond to North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistic missile test last week, which raised anxieties over North Korea's nuclear weapons strike capabilities.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, scheduled to arrive on Saturday (Aug 5), will seek to increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea, with Washington pushing for another round of tough United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang, according to one of his top aides.

“What we would expect to see this year at the meeting would be a general chorus of condemnation of North Korea’s provocative behaviour,” Ms Susan Thornton, the acting US assistant secretary of state, told reporters in Washington.