U.S. TO TARGET N. KOREA AT ANNUAL FORUM
Superpower seeks to build chorus of condemnation over the North’s behaviour
NORTH KOREA is set to face a diplomatic barrage over its nuclear weapons programme at a security forum here starting this weekend, with the United States seeking to build a “chorus of condemnation”.
Foreign ministers from all the major powers involved in trying to curtail North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear ambitions will be here for the event, offering a rare chance for face-to-face talks on the crisis.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will seek to build diplomatic pressure on the North, with Washington pushing for another round of 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,” Susan Thornton, the acting US assistant secretary of state, said in Washington.
The annual forum, hosted by Asean, brings together top diplomats from 26 countries and the European Union for talks on political and security issues in AsiaPacific.
This year they will express “grave concern” over North Korea’s missile tests, according to a draft copy of the chairman’s statement.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will also set the stage for the talks on Wednesday with a blistering critique of Kim.
“He is playing with dangerous toys and this crazy man, do not be fooled by his face, that chubby face that looks nice,” Duterte said, as he warned Kim could trigger a nuclear war that would destroy Asia.
“That s***-o*-w **** maniac, if he makes a mistake then the Far East will become an arid land.”
The draft of the chairman’s statement flagged the North, to be represented by Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, will offer a typically defiant response to the diplomatic pressure.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) claimed during the meeting that its nuclear weapons programme is an act of self-defence against a hostile policy towards it,” said the statement, which is due to be released at the end of the meeting on Monday.
Tillerson will not hold direct talks with Ri here, according to Thornton. But Tillerson is expected to meet the top envoys from the other nations in stalled “six-party” negotiations aimed at reining in Pyongyang’ s programme: China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.
The 10 Asean foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks among themselves today and tomorrow, during which the region’s other major flashpoint issue — rival claims in the South China Sea and China’s growing presence there — will be a top agenda item.
Beijing has, in recent years, expanded its presence in the sea by building artificial islands capable of holding military bases.
Asean will endorse a framework on a code of conduct for the sea, which has been brokered with China, and call for talks to create a formal pact to begin “as soon as possible”, according to a draft of their joint statement.
While the Philippines and China have been promoting the framework as an important development, analysts caution it is only a minor step that comes 15 years after negotiations began. AFP