South­east Asia piles on N. Korea

Diplo­mats chas­tise na­tion, say mis­sile tests ‘threaten peace’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - TERESA CEROJANO AND JIM GOMEZ

MANILA, Philip­pines — South­east Asia’s top diplo­mats slammed North Korea with a sharp re­buke Sat­ur­day over its in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests and ad­mon­ished Py­ongyang to com­ply with its duty to help avert con­flicts as a mem­ber of Asia’s big­gest se­cu­rity fo­rum.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions for­eign min­is­ters, how­ever, were split on an Amer­i­can pro­posal to sus­pend Py­ongyang from the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Re­gional Fo­rum, a 27-na­tion bloc that in­cludes North Korea and its ad­ver­saries the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

The As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions min­is­ters re­it­er­ated in a joint state­ment their grave con­cerns over the es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula af­ter the North’s two ICBM tests last month, say­ing the launches threaten world sta­bil­ity. The min­is­ters tra­di­tion­ally is­sue a com­mu­nique con­tain­ing their di­verse con­cerns, and their is­suance of a sep­a­rate state­ment on North Korea’s mis­sile tests and nu­clear weapons pro­gram re­flects their deep wor­ries.

“These de­vel­op­ments se­ri­ously threaten peace, se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion and the world,” the min­is­ters said in their state­ment. They urged the North to im­me­di­ately and fully com­ply with its obli­ga­tions un­der U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions.

They also backed ef­forts to im­prove re­la­tions be­tween the two Koreas and said their 10-na­tion bloc was ready “to play a con­struc­tive role in con­tribut­ing to peace and sta­bil­ity” on the Korean Penin­sula.

All the coun­tries in­volved in the so-called six-party talks aimed at tam­ing the North’s nu­clear am­bi­tions be­long to the Re­gional Fo­rum, but Philip­pine For­eign Af­fairs spokesman Robe­spierre Bo­li­var said at a news con­fer­ence Sat­ur­day that there was no plan for those na­tions to meet on the side­lines of the Manila meet­ings. North Korea pulled out of the talks — which also in­clude South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Rus­sia — in 2009 to protest in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion of a long-range rocket launch.

Philip­pine For­eign Sec­re­tary Alan Peter Cayetano said the min­is­ters were di­vided over a U.S. pro­posal to sus­pend the North from the Re­gional Fo­rum, which will hold its an­nual meet­ing on Mon­day.

North Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Ri Yong Ho will at­tend Mon­day’s meet­ing. With the U.S., Japan and South Korea ex­pected to push for stronger ac­tions against the North, a show­down looms.

“There were views that, ‘How can we hear them out or con­front them if they’re not there?’ But there’s also a view that we should give them an ul­ti­ma­tum,” Cayetano said late Fri­day af­ter dis­cussing the is­sue with other for­eign min­is­ters.

The min­is­ters “strongly call upon” North Korea to help “main­tain the Asia Pa­cific as a re­gion of last­ing peace, sta­bil­ity, friend­ship and pros­per­ity,” the min­is­ters said in their state­ment.

On the ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes in the South China Sea that em­broil As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions mem­bers Brunei, Malaysia, the Philip­pines and Viet­nam, the 10 for­eign min­is­ters on Sat­ur­day ap­proved a frame­work of a long-pro­posed code of con­duct aimed at pre­vent­ing clashes in the dis­puted wa­ters, Bo­li­var said.

The Philip­pines, which serves as the group’s chair­man this year, called the con­clu­sion of talks be­tween China and the or­ga­ni­za­tion to fi­nal­ize the frame­work “a very big step.” Crit­ics, how­ever, say the frame­work serves only as a brief out­line of pre­vi­ously agreed prin­ci­ples and fails to men­tion con­cerns over China’s newly built is­lands or an ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing last year that in­val­i­dated Bei­jing’s claims to vir­tu­ally all of the South China Sea. China has re­fused to rec­og­nize the rul­ing, based on a 1982 mar­itime treaty.

Bo­li­var said the Philip­pines prefers a legally bind­ing code of con­duct but the con­sen­sus in the group is that at the very least, the code that is still to be ne­go­ti­ated should be sub­stan­tive and ef­fec­tive. He said the frame­work is an out­line and coun­tries can put in more sub­stan­tive as­pects of the code when the ne­go­ti­a­tions start.

A fi­nal copy of the frame­work seen by The As­so­ci­ated Press also did not men­tion whether the code should be legally bind­ing, which most of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s states de­mand but China op­poses, or the ex­tent of dis­puted ar­eas to be cov­ered by such a code. The code will not serve as a tool to set­tle ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes, ac­cord­ing to the frame­work.

AP/BULLIT MARQUEZ

Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi (cen­ter) and Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to the Philip­pines Zhao Jian­hua (left) ar­rive Sat­ur­day for a meet­ing of As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions for­eign min­is­ters in Manila.

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