US wants North Korea suspended from Asia forum over missile and nuclear weapons programme

Washington calls for the suspension of Pyongyang’s membership from the Asean Regional Forum

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 10:44am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 August, 2017, 5:11pm

A senior US official said Washington would seek talks on how North Korea can be suspended from Asia’s biggest security forum as part of a broader effort to isolate Pyongyang diplomatically and force it to end its missile tests and abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said in Washington on Wednesday that North Korea’s actions had violated the conflict-prevention aims of the Asean Regional Forum, which groups China, the United States and North Korea with 24 other countries.

Two Filipino officials said that US officials had discussed such a prospect with Philippine officials, who told them it may be better to keep North Korea in the forum, where it can be persuaded to stop provocations through dialogue.

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Thornton said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would push China and other Asian countries to “galvanise” pressure on North Korea.

Tillerson has no plans to hold talks with his North Korean counterpart during Asean-related meetings in Manila, but was expected to meet bilaterally with China there, Thornton said.

Amid escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific over Pyongyang’s test-launches of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, another US official said that Tillerson planned to hold a trilateral meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea.

The top US diplomat also planned to meet trilaterally with Japan and Australia in Manila, with the three likely to affirm close coordination in tightening sanctions on North Korea.

During the Asean Regional Forum, slated for Monday, and other Asean-related meetings, Tillerson will press China and Russia, as well as other regional powers to enforce UN sanctions on Pyongyang and “drastically reduce” their interactions with the country, Thornton said.

Tillerson has called Beijing and Moscow “the principal economic enablers” of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development programme.

“What we’re trying to do is galvanise this pressure and isolate North Korea so that it can see what the opportunity cost is of developing these weapons programmes,” Thornton said.

“We’re seeking to exert pressure on the North Korean regime in order to change their calculus about what they’re willing to seriously discuss with us about the abandonment of their nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.”

Thornton ruled out the possibility of a meeting between Tillerson and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, saying: “The secretary has no plans to meet the North Korean foreign minister in Manila, and I don’t expect to see that happen.”

Associated Press, Kyodo