Published: Tue, May 09, 2017
National | By Traci Kelley

Tillerson Meets ASEAN Ministers to Seek Support on North Korea


At a lunch that he hosted for visiting foreign ministers of the ten- member grouping, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson underscored his nation's commitment to Asean, but also sought its help to cut funding streams for North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

"North Korea in many countries has a diplomatic presence that clearly exceeds their diplomatic needs", Murphy told reporters.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a speech to State Department employees in which he referenced and elaborated on Donald Trump's "America first" policy and how it applied to the department.

All 10 ASEAN members now have diplomatic relations with North Korea, and five of them - Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia - have embassies or missions in Pyongyang.

Washington said there was a shared concern among the Southeast Asian bloc that North Korea's provocation has threatened the stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe.

"The secretary noted shared concerns by many in the region regarding militarization and land reclamation in the South China Sea", the department said in a readout.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the South China Sea issue is neither a problem between China and ASEAN, nor between the USA and ASEAN.

In 2002, China and ASEAN adopted a declaration of conduct in which all parties agreed to avoid activities that would escalate disputes, including refraining from inhabiting the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features.

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At the conclusion of the meeting, however, Duterte said the ASEAN hopes to finish drafting a binding code of conduct before yearend.

The United States is asking Asean member states to review their diplomatic relationships with North Korea and fully implement United Nations sanctions to help isolate the Pyongyang regime.

"I think it is really important that all of us understand the difference between policy and values", the secretary of state, a former oil executive, said as part of what he described as an "overarching view" on Trump's "America first" mantra, a phrase denounced by the Anti-Defamation League for its links to 1940s Nazi sympathiser.

US efforts have included a flurry of calls by Trump at the weekend to the leaders of the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

"To increase the DoD budget and decrease the State Department budget which, specific programs aside, the message that that sends is the US will be engaging with the world with its military and not with its traditional diplomatic corps", Prasow said.

According to the DFA, acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo is leading the Philippine delegation to the special meeting which is expected to provide the opportunity to review ASEAN and United States relations, apart from exchanging views on regional and worldwide issues, among others.

ASEAN will celebrate its 50th year of existence. "This is a big market, our fourth largest trading partner", he said.

"This approach suggests that the U.S.is just going to look at what works this week or next week", Prasow said, "and not what the situation will be long term". USA officials are also asking China to urge more China-friendly ASEAN members, such as Laos and Cambodia, to do the same.

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