ARF calls on Pyongyang to abandon nukes, missile tests

The Asia-Pacific region’s foreign ministers have demanded North Korea abandon nuclear weapons and stop testing missiles as Kim Jong Un promised. (EPA photo)

SINGAPORE: Asia-Pacific foreign ministers led by Asean have called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons in line with leader Kim Jong Un’s commitment to “complete” denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, according to a statement released Monday.

At the 27-member Asean Regional Forum security meeting last Saturday, including Japan and the United States, they urged North Korea “to fulfil its stated commitment to complete denuclearisation and its pledge to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests.”

Even though the meeting ended Saturday, the chairman’s statement was only released by Singapore’s Foreign Ministry on Monday. The city-state is currently chairing the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The delay was just to seek everyone’s views, said a source.

As the statement was released, North Korean state media began a new campaign calling for the United States to drop sanctions, saying Pyongyang had demonstrated good faith by ending its nuclear weapons testing and handing over the remains of US troops killed in the Korean War.

UN officials last week reported the North has not halted nuclear and missile programmes, in breach of UN resolutions.

“There have been outrageous arguments coming out of the US State Department that it won’t ease sanctions until a denuclearisation is completed, and reinforcing sanctions is a way to raise its negotiating power,” the Pyongyang newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial. The paper is the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ (Communist) Party.

“How could the sanctions, which were a stick the U.S. administration had brandished as part of its hostile policy against us, promote the two countries’ amity?” the editorial said.

The ARF meeting last week sparred over the Singapore agreement, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling for maintaining sanctions against Pyongyang, and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, criticising Washington for “retreating” from ending the war during a speech.

The ministers’ statement released Monday welcomed the two inter-Korean summits held in April and May and the summit between North Korea and the United States held in June, as well as the joint statements issued at those meetings.

They “urged all concerned parties to continue working towards the realisation of lasting peace and stability on a denuclearised Korean Peninsula, including through the full and expeditious implementation” of those recent statements.

As for the South China Sea territorial disputes involving China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the statement said the ministers “took note of some concerns on the land reclamations and activities in the area, which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.”

They reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursue peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

They emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states and reaffirmed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.

The ministers took note of the agreement among Asean and China on a single draft negotiating text for an envisaged code of conduct in the South China Sea and emphasised the need to maintain an environment conducive to negotiations on the code.

Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which a major portion of global trade passes, overlap those of Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Asean also includes non-claimants Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

ARF comprises the 10 Asean states, China, Japan, the United States, Russia, North and South Korea, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the European Union, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, East Timor, Mongolia and Sri Lanka.

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