Published: Sat, May 06, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Tillerson seeks action on NKorea as he meets SE Asia bloc

Tillerson seeks action on NKorea as he meets SE Asia bloc

Tillerson is hosting foreign ministers from ASEAN on Thursday at the State Department, which comes just days after top diplomats from those countries met in Manila and issued a statement that criticized North Korea's provocation.

Tillerson called on all countries last week to suspend or downgrade diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

Some countries have told the USA they "are taking measures and steps, relooking (at) the size of North Korea's diplomatic presence in individual countries, their activities, their commercial transactions that are conducted under diplomatic cover in the light", Murphy said. "I think on this issue a considerable common ground was identified".

Diplomats say USA pressure has caused some irritation in ASEAN, including Malaysia, which has maintained relations with Pyongyang in spite of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half brother at Kuala Lumpur International airport on February 13.

"We really have to understand, in each country or each region of the world that we're dealing with, what are our national security interests, what are our economic prosperity interests, and then, as we can advocate and advance our values, we should", he said.

Referring to the USA call to minimize relations with Pyongyang, Philippine acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said: "We haven't really discussed that among the ASEAN countries, so that's probably something we will look at".

Tillerson also underscored the importance to the U.S. of ASEAN and renewed an appeal to all countries with claims to the disputed South China Sea to stop the construction and militarization of bases.

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. "The last thing we would like to see is to have a conflict break out due to some miscalculation", Manalo said.

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This announcement came after the White House was under fire for inviting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to the U.S.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Patrick Murphy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state to east Asia, said Tillerson also stressed Washington's security and economic commitment to the region, amid doubts raised by President Donald Trump's "America First" platform and withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Balakrishnan stressed the importance of US - ASEAN business ties as Singapore has signed the TPP.

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. The Philippines, which is now chair of ASEAN, has dialed back its once strong stance over China's assertive behavior and island-building.

The United States has conducted freedom of navigation operations to challenge South China Sea claims, angering China, but not yet under Trump.

This stance coincided with moves by China and ASEAN to draft a framework to negotiate a code of conduct.

Trump has feted Chinese President Xi Jinping as he pushes for more cooperation against North Korea.

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