US, ASEAN agree on need for full implementation of NK sanctions

Toby Manning
May 7, 2017

Asean Foreign Ministers said in a statement at the end of the meeting on Thursday that both sides discussed the situation in the Korean Peninsula, expressing grave concern over the escalation of tensions.

Murphy said Washington was not encouraging ASEAN states to formally cut diplomatic ties, but to examine the North Korean presence "where it clearly exceeds diplomatic needs".

In his first meeting with Asean Foreign Ministers, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed Washington's continued engagement with South-East Asia and efforts to address challenges in the region, specifically North Korea and the disputed South China Sea.

He said the U.S. objective was to cut North Korea's economic ties overseas, including the export of workers, mainly to China and Russian Federation, whose wages are used as a source of foreign income by the cash-strapped government.

According to Murphy, Tillerson called on ASEAN countries to fully implement U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang, which is working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, and to show a united front on the issue.

"Some countries are taking a look at the presence of North Korean workers, which, again, is another revenue stream for North Korea, and is this appropriate".

Tillerson presided over an April 28 meeting of ministers addressing North Korean nuclear program-related issues in UNSC countries, where he urged United Nations members to suspend or downgrade diplomatic ties with North Korea.

All ASEAN members have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

"Our immediate concern is to try and ensure the tension on the peninsula doesn't increase".

"In response, Manalo said ASEAN ministers have yet to discuss Tillerson's call for nations to downgrade ties with North Korea, but added: ".[T] hat's probably something we will look at".

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But, Trump said, "We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very hard".

Asked if that could be further reduced, he said: "I won't say never, but at this point in time that's not the issue - we will stick with the UN Security Council's resolutions".

"Asean not only has 40 years of ties with the U.S., but for the past two years, has been a strategic partner, an elevation that took place in 2015", said Mr Murphy in a conference call with journalists on Friday morning.

The Washington meeting precedes a more formal session in Manila in August to prepare for the US-ASEAN summit that President Donald Trump will attend in November.

"Secretary Tillerson underscored that the Asia-Pacific region is a top priority for the Trump Administration and that Asean is an essential partner", it said.

"We reiterated the principles previously agreed by our leaders and we call for the early agreement on the framework and expeditious conclusion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea", read the statement.

On the South China Sea, ASEAN has adopted a cautious approach recently toward China, with a weekend summit of its leaders avoiding references to Beijing's building and arming of islands there.

At the meeting, Tillerson also called on nations with competing claims in the South China Sea to cease all island building and militarization while talks aimed at creating a maritime code of conduct were under way.

However, long-standing USA allies like the Philippines and Thailand have moved closer to China, complicating US hopes for unity on issues like control over the potentially resource-rich South China Sea. Murphy said such operations would continue, but declined to say when the next might occur.

Other reports by VgToday

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