The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Sunday expressed concern over North Korea’s recent nuclear and missile tests and urged self-restraint in the interest of maintaining peace, security and stability in the region and the world.
"We expressed our grave concern over recent developments in the Korean Peninsula, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) two nuclear tests in 2016 and subsequent ballistic missile launches,” the ASEAN leaders' statement read.
President Rodrigo Duterte is this year's chairman of the 30th ASEAN Summit held in Manila, the Philippines' capital, on April 26-29, which mainly discussed issues in the South China Sea and the tension surrounding North Korea’s nuclear program.
The ASEAN leaders are made up of Brunei Darussalam Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Lao PDR Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
They issued the statement a few days after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile shortly following a U.S. warning that failure to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to “catastrophic consequences".
At the summit, Duterte highlighted the need to promote peace, stability, security, and prosperity in the region; push for a drug-free ASEAN; and mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, national identity, and non-interference in the internal affairs of one another.
‘Countries playing with toys’
Saying that North Korea’s actions have resulted in an escalation of tensions that can affect peace and stability in the entire region, Duterte said they were urging it to immediately comply fully with its obligations arising from all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“We reiterate our full support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and for concerned Parties to explore all avenues for immediate dialogue,” the statement added.
At a press conference at the summit’s conclusion, Duterte said the ASEAN countries are extremely worried.
"There seems to be two countries playing with toys. Those toys are not really to entertain," Philstar quoted Duterte as saying.
He urged the U.S. to show restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of its leader Kim Jong-Un, who “wants to end the world" with his nuclear program.
According to him, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and China are sparring with a man who was excited about the prospect of firing missiles.
On disputes in the South China Sea, the ASEAN leaders affirmed “the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation and over-flight in and above the South China Sea,” and cited progress made “to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) by the middle of this year, in order to facilitate the early conclusion of an effective COC.”
Duterte has been seeking to bury the hatchet with China after years of wrangling over its maritime assertiveness, including its four-year blockade of the Scarborough Shoal.
Source: Anadolu Agency