ASEAN leaders worried over Korea tension
South-East Asian leaders say they are “extremely worried” about tensions on the Korean Peninsula and have urged Pyongyang to stop actions that threaten peace in the region during an annual summit in the Philippines.
North Korea’s nuclear tests and the territorial disputes in the South China Sea dominated the discussions of the leaders of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) at their meetings in Manila on Saturday.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who chaired the one-day summit, said the leaders were worried that if war broke out in the Korean peninsula, the region would “suffer immensely.”
“ASEAN needs to be strong and united in calling for North Korea to cease all provocative actions and return to the path of dialogue,” Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Hours before the summit opened, Pyongyang attempted to launch a ballistic missile from an area north of Pyongyang, but it exploded after lift-off.
Duterte urged restraint from the United States and other countries involved in the tensions to avoid any miscalculation that could “cause catastrophe.”
He told a press conference at the end of the summit that the US “yields the biggest stick” but urged it “to be prudent and be patient,” he told a press conference at the end of the summit.
Duterte said he plans to urge US President Donald Trump, who was scheduled to call him later on Saturday, to “not play into (the) hands” of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“The guy (Kim) simply wants to end the world, that is why he is very happy,” the 72-year-old Philippine leader said. “He is always smiling. But he really wants to finish everything.”
At the start of the summit, Duterte stressed the need for countries to respect the “supremacy of the law” amid an era of political and security challenges that could hamper stability and growth.
Watch: China urges ‘restraint’ on North Korea
He said various security issues “test (the regional bloc’s) resolve to promote peace, stability, security and prosperity in the region.”
Duterte said that international and regional relations would remain productive and constructive, however, if countries practice mutual respect and value the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Despite his call for respect for the rule of law, Duterte has come under fire for not pushing for a stronger ASEAN stance against China’s aggressive activities in the disputed South China Sea.
Officials attending the meetings said ASEAN was divided on how to address the disputes at the summit, with four countries pushing for a statement that would call out China on its land reclamation in the sea.
Lee said that while not all ASEAN members are claimants, the regional bloc should be united in its stand.
“As individual countries, our voices carry limited weight but collectively, our voice is louder and stronger,” Singapore’s prime minister said.
The summit – the first of two meetings this year among leaders of ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – is being held under tight security in Manila.