Philippine foreign minister conveys group’s concern to North Korean counterpart

Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano met Monday with his North Korean counterpart to convey ASEAN’s deep concern about tensions on the Korean Peninsula following Pyongyang’s recent missile tests.

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The meeting with Ri Yong-Ho took place ahead of the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting in the capital, Manila.

Cayetano, as Chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), was tasked by his colleagues with conveying the regional bloc's position.

"The statement was not borne out of lost friendship but is because of frustration that there seems to be no opening for discussions or dialogue to address the impasse on the issues in the Korean Peninsula," Cayetano told Ri as quoted by The Philippine Star.

"However, there is sentiment across ASEAN that for this engagement to be truly productive and beneficial not just to ASEAN but to our region and the world, we need to ensure that there is a mutual openness and communication amongst us," Cayetano said.

Ri thanked Cayetano and said he understood ASEAN’s position. He assured him the message would reach Pyongyang.

The meeting between Cayetano and Ri came after the foreign ministers of ASEAN’s 10-member states issued a statement reiterating their “grave concern over the escalation of tensions” on the Korean Peninsula.

Hours before the statement, the U.S. presented a draft UN resolution calling for toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of $1 billion in annual revenues.

In an interview with reporters in Manila, the ASEAN Regional Forum spokesman for North Korea, Bang Kwang Hyuk, said Pyongyang would not change its mind about developing its nuclear defense against the U.S.

Pyongyang also lambasted ASEAN member states for not being “morally qualified” to meddle in North Korea’s nuclear program because they ignored the “hostile policy and nuclear threat” that the U.S. imposed on the North.

“Several ministers of foreign affairs here are expressing concern about the situation on the Korean Peninsula, but those countries that are unable or fail to take issue with the U.S.’s hostile policy and nuclear threat towards the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] - the root cause of the problem - are not morally qualified to talk about the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula,” the Philippine Inquirer quoted him as saying.

Pyongyang also clarified that the nuclear program was prepared against a possible threat from the U.S., but it is ready to go on the offensive against countries that join the U.S..

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