U.S. TO TAR­GET N. KOREA AT AN­NUAL FO­RUM

Su­per­power seeks to build cho­rus of con­dem­na­tion over the North’s be­hav­iour

New Straits Times - - World -

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

Rex Tiller­son

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