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ASEAN Plus Three airs ‘grave concerns’ over N. Korea

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in listens in during the 20th Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three (APT) Commemorative Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center on Nov. 14, 2017. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/POOL

THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a statement on Tuesday, Nov. 14, “expressed grave concerns” over the “provocative and threatening actions” by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

A statement by the chairman of the 20th ASEAN Plus Three Commemorative Summit noted North Korea’s “sixth nuclear test” on Sept. 3 and its missile launchings in July and August.

The ASEAN Summit together with the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea mark its 20th this year, alongside the ASEAN main summit which is on its 31st. The regional bloc, however, marks 50 years as an organization. The Philippines hosts this year’s summits.

“We urged the DPRK to immediately comply with its obligations under all relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. We reiterated the support for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner,” ASEAN Plus Three said in its chairman’s statement.

“We emphasized the importance for the DPRK to stop provocative and threatening actions, thereby creating conditions conducive for dialogue. We supported initiatives to improve inter-Korean relations towards establishing peace in the Korean Peninsula and noted the latest Initiative of the Republic of Korea proposed on 6 July 2017 in Berlin,” the statement also said, adding further:

“ASEAN Leaders reiterated ASEAN’s readiness to play a constructive role in contributing to peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.”

The chairman’s statement also noted: “We agreed that a sustainable framework for multilateral cooperation will contribute to alleviating the tension and fostering peace in East Asia and that the Korean government’s continuous contributions to developing such framework in Northeast Asia are significant and indispensable.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Oct. 30 said tensions in the Korean Peninsula would further ease if ASEAN leaders would reach out to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“It would be good if America, Japan, Korea, and Mr. Kim Jong-u…talk and (they) convince him to sit down on a roundtable and just tell him that nobody’s threatening him, that there will be no war, and that if he can just tone down or stand down, stop the threats, and that would be the same for America,” he had said.

On other matters, the statement also “emphasized the need to pursue an open trading system for the region that would allow unimpeded growth of trade and investments.”

“We welcomed the strong trade and investment relations between the ASEAN and the Plus Three countries,” the statement said, noting further that “foreign direct investment flows from the Plus Three Countries into ASEAN was valued at $ 27.1 billion, accounting for 27.6% of the total FDI inflow to ASEAN.”

The statement also “welcomed the progress in advancing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations across all areas” and “urged RCEP-participating countries to further intensify efforts toward a swift conclusion of a modern, high-quality, and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement.”

The statement also “noted the efforts made by the East Asia Business Council (EABC) in supporting Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to capture the opportunities offered by digital trade, find new ways of doing business, as well as enhance MSMEs’ engagement in the course of RCEP negotiations.”

RCEP is a proposed economic regime being negotiated by ASEAN’s member-states and six FTA (free trade agreement) state-partners. — Rosemarie A. Zamora