Asean will support denuclearisation of Korean peninsula

Asean will continue to support efforts to secure the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

The regional grouping welcomes recent developments on the peninsula, PM Lee said at a press conference at Shangri-La Hotel, a day after the historic summit in which North and South Korea pledged to end their decades-long conflict.

Denuclearisation of the peninsula was one of several regional developments which Asean leaders discussed during the 32nd Asean Summit hosted by Singapore.

They also discussed maritime security in the South China Sea, tackling the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine state and global trends like free trade coming under pressure.

At the summit and related meetings over the past two days, the leaders adopted concrete proposals on how Asean can be resilient against threats like cyber attacks, and be innovative in its use of technology to grow its economies.

As Asean chairman, Singapore is focusing on the twin themes of resilience and innovation.

  • NO FORMAL INVITE TO HOST U.S.-NORTH KOREA SUMMIT

  • Singapore has not received any formal invitations or requests to host the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

    "We've had no formal invitations, requests from the parties," said PM Lee, when asked yesterday about reports that Singapore is on the shortlist. "It has to be something agreed by both North Korea as well as the United States. I doubt very much they have come to any landing."

    Yasmine Yahya

The leaders signed off on a statement to boost cyber security across the region, and agreed on Singapore's proposal to set up a network of 26 smart cities across Asean.

PM Lee also announced that the model Asean extradition treaty was finalised at the working level last month, and work on an actual extradition treaty will start next.

Summing up these efforts in the works at a press conference, PM Lee said: "Overall, I'm pleased that we have completed a promising and productive first lap in Singapore's Asean chairmanship."

He also weighed in on Friday's inter-Korea summit. The summit supports steps to decrease tensions and improve inter-Korea relations, and will contribute to peace and stability on the peninsula and in the region, he said.

"It's good that the North and South Koreans have met. It's good that President Donald Trump is about to meet President Kim Jong Un. The question is how things move forward," PM Lee added.

He also said that although the first step towards denuclearisation had been taken, "the first step is the first of many and the subsequent steps will not be easy".

The issue has a long history of discussions, unfulfilled deals and recriminations, resulting in a cycle of tensions and mistrust built up over a long period of time, he said.

Apart from the matter of trust, denuclearisation involves many parties whose interests are not completely aligned, and the definition of denuclearisation itself and how to verify and enforce it are not clear.

Said PM Lee: "There are many very difficult issues to be dealt with along the way, even assuming the best of faith on both sides.

"It's a positive step, it's better than firing missiles and testing bombs, but how does it go - that's something which we will wait and see and which we can only hope for the best."

Asean has limited leverage in this situation - it can comply with UN Security Council resolutions, make sure that sanctions are enforced and complied with, as well as speak up to add moral pressure, said PM Lee, adding: "But we have to accept that the situation will evolve in the way the major participants push the developments."

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 29, 2018, with the headline 'Asean will support denuclearisation of Korean peninsula'. Print Edition | Subscribe