Cayetano: ASEAN won't oust N. Korea from ASEAN Regional Forum

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2017 06:59 PM | Updated as of Aug 08 2017 08:53 PM

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano holds a press conference at the conclusion of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting Tuesday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN

MANILA (UPDATE) - North Korea will not be ousted from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, the lone security summit where Pyongyang sends its top envoy to engage in dialogue with other foreign ministers, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Tuesday.

"There is no mechanism to remove someone from the dialogue at this time," Cayetano said in a press conference after the conclusion of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting here.

Calls for the removal of Pyongyang from the ARF was raised by Washington days before the United Nations Security Council issued stiffer penalties against the hermit state in a bid to convince its leaders to halt nuclear and ballistic missile tests that "threaten peace and stability in the region."

Cayetano, who chaired the Manila meetings, said ASEAN foreign ministers did not thoroughly discuss North Korea's possible exit from the key security forum as the "US did not file it as a formal proposal."

The Philippines had been lukewarm to calls to remove North Korea from the ARF days before the ministers' meetings, after a US official said Washington would seek ways to suspend the reclusive regime from the forum and the US Embassy in Manila said the American government was encouraging nations to downgrade ties with the North. 

At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Saturday, the bloc's top diplomats reiterated their call for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula 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."

'PEACEMAKER'

Cayetano said the ASEAN was willing to be the "peacemaker" that would help ease Korean Peninsula tensions, provided that North Korea would "give some kind of opening for discussion."

North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles "will not be placed on the negotiating table," Ri Yong-ho, Pyongyang's top diplomat, had said in a speech delivered at the ARF, Monday.

On the same day, Cayetano conveyed to Ri ASEAN's stance on the Korean Peninsula issue after other Southeast Asian ministers decided not to hold talks with the reclusive state.

"We came out with a strong statement to show the world, the United Nations Security Council that we are with them, that we want stability to return to the Korean Peninsula," Cayetano said.

"The goal is simple: get them to denuclearize peacefully. ASEAN wants to play a productive role but they have to give, they have to budge, they have to open the doors," he said.