Asia pushes N. Korea to dismantle nukes


U.S. assailed for maintaining sanctions against the North


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Singapore

Asia’s top diplomats pressed North Korea on Saturday to turn a pledge to completely dismantle its nuclear arsenal into reality amid concerns that it’s proceeding with its programs.

North Korea’s foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, however, hit the United States in an Asian security forum in Singapore for certain “alarming” moves, including “raising its voice louder for maintaining the sanctions against” the North.

Those moves, Ri told fellow ministers, could make an agreement with the Trump administration, including the North’s commitment to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, “face difficulties.”

China and Southeast Asian nations also faced calls in the Singapore meetings to rapidly conclude an effective nonaggression pact that can help fend off possible clashes in the disputed South China Sea. Both sides have announced an agreement on an initial draft of a regional “code of conduct” that they regarded as a milestone after 16 years of sporadic talks.


Alarm over rising trade protectionism, which Asian governments warn could stymie economic growth, dominated the meetings too, with Japan calling for the swift conclusion of a 16-nation Asian free trade agreement that does not include the United States.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the rapprochement between North Korea and the United States, along with completion of a negotiating draft of the code of conduct for the South China Sea, are breakthroughs. But he added that “like any other breakthrough in diplomatic negotiations, they may lead to something great, they may lead to nothing.”

“Now the hard work is really on the details,” Cayetano told reporters before walking into daylong meetings between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their partners the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

ASEAN foreign ministers, along with counterparts from China, Japan and South Korea, urged the U.S. and North Korea “as well as concerned parties to continue working towards the realization of lasting peace and stability on a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” according to a draft communique they were to issue after their meetings Saturday, which was seen by The Associated Press.

In the communique, they would “note” — often a diplomatic subtlety for a reminder — the “stated commitment” of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s formal name, “to complete denuclearization and its pledge to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests during this period.”

A summary of a new report by experts monitoring U.N. sanctions against North Korea, which was sent to the Security Council Friday night and obtained by the AP at the United Nations, said North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missiles programs and continues to defy the sanctions resolutions.

The North was also violating sanctions by transferring coal at sea and flouting an arms embargo and financial sanctions, the report said.



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