MANILA - Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday reiterated their call to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons as they expressed "grave concern" over North Korea's continued nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches that "threaten peace, security and stability in the region."
"We reiterate our support for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, call for the exercise of self restraint, and underscore the importance of creating conditions conducive for dialogue to de-escalate tensions," top diplomats from the ASEAN said in a statement.
"We strongly call upon the DPRK (North Korea), as a participant in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), to positively contribute to realize the ARF's vision to maintain the Asia-Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity," read the statement, issued during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting.
The ministers said the regional bloc is still "ready to play a constructive role in contributing peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula" despite earlier calls from the United States to oust the hermit state from the ARF, a key multilateral security dialogue among the bloc's 10-member nations and 17 other dialogue partners.
Hours before the ASEAN minister's statement, the United States presented a draft UN resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of $1 billion in annual revenues.
The proposed stiffer penalties against Pyongyang came after a month of negotiations between Washington and Beijing, North Korea's main trading partner and ally.