Published: Wed, August 09, 2017
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Asean diplomats issue strong rebuke, warning to North Korea

Asean diplomats issue strong rebuke, warning to North Korea

One of the diplomats told The Associated Press that Cambodia expressed concern over the issuance by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' foreign ministers of a separate statement criticizing North Korea's two ICBM tests last month.

"In view of this positive momentum, we reaffirmed our readiness to begin the substantive negotiation on the COC and tasked our Senior Officials to start the negotiation on the COC with China", the ASEAN joint communique said.

The United States also said it hoped to build unified pressure on the North at the Manila event, known as the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), which US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is attending.

"We emphasized the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the DOC that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea", the ministers said in the 46-page document.

Astride the world's busiest and most strategic shipping lanes, the region was the fulcrum of the administration's rebalancing toward Asia. China has repeatedly said that while sanctions need to be imposed, they can not bring a final resolution to the North Korea issue, which has to be addressed by talks.

"The atmosphere of this year is different from the past", Wang said.

Analysts and some ASEAN diplomats worry that China's sudden support for negotiating a code of conduct is a ploy to buy time to further boost its military capability.

"China and ASEAN have the ability and wisdom to work together to maintain regional peace and stability", he said.

The US has long said it would agree to talk only if North Korea agrees to denuclearization - something many analysts believe is unlikely.

Some critics and diplomats told Reuters that China's sudden interest in starting negotiations for the COC after 15 years of delays is meant to buy time to complete its strategic objectives in the South China Sea.

The framework COC is a huge step toward finalizing the COC itself.

"There's still no consensus", a diplomat said earlier during the weekend, according to Agence France-Presse. "But the Philippines is trying very hard to broker compromise language".

Bolivar stressed the Philippines preferred a "legally binding" and effective code of conduct which all parties would observe and adhere to.

Filipino Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (left) greets Myanmar Minister of State for Foreign Affairs U Kyaw Tin during the reception for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City, south Manila, Philippines, on August 5.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have overshadowed discussions at the annual Association of South-East Asian Nations ministerial meetings in Manila, which were being held on Saturday as the regional bloc was to mark its 50th founding anniversary.

Southeast Asian countries have expressed concern over China's militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea but have reserved their opinions on whether a code of conduct for the disputed waters should be legally binding. The arbitral tribunal also said that China violated Philippine rights by barring access to Scarborough Shoal - also called Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal by the Philippines - a traditional fishing ground for Filipino and Vietnamese fishers. The annual security dialogue draws in 27 countries, including North and South Korea, the United States, China and Russian Federation.

At the conference, Tillerson sought to put to rest fears that the United States would abandon the region, saying his meetings with ambassadors are "indicative of the importance that the United States pays and places on this relationship with ASEAN". But he claimed that Xi threatened him with war if he went ahead with implementing those plans.

Following the court decision previous year, Duterte himself said that he told Chinese leader Xi Jinping that he planned drilling explorations in the area.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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