Cayetano meets N. Korea's Ri as ASEAN pushes NoKor denuclearization

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2017 03:59 PM | Updated as of Aug 07 2017 06:59 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho at the sidelines of a key security summit here, a day after Manila said it would support the United Nations' new sanctions against Pyongyang.

"The Philippines, as Association of Southeast Asian Nations chair met with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to formally convey the ASEAN foreign ministers' position on the Korean Peninsula issue," Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said in a statement.

Cayetano told Ri that the "statement was not borne out of lost friendship but is because of frustration" over the lack of dialogue that would hopefully deescalate global tensions and stop Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

"There is a sentiment across ASEAN that for this engagement to be truly productive and beneficial not just to the ASEAN but to our region and the world, we need to ensure that there is mutual openness and communication among us," Cayetano told his North Korean counterpart.

Over the weekend, Southeast Asian ministers 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 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.

Ri told Cayetano that he "understood the ASEAN position" and assured Manila's top diplomat that "the message would reach Pyongyang."

Cayetano earlier said Manila is considering to downgrade its ties with Pyongyang, but will not oust the hermit state from the ARF, a key security forum that may be North Korea's only venue to continue dialogue with the international community.

Japan, an immediate neighbor of North Korea, has been pushing ASEAN ministers to increase pressure on Pyongyang by imposing more sanctions on the hermit state instead of engaging in further discussions.

Though China, North Korea's biggest trading partner and ally, agreed with the impositions of sanctions against the hermit state, its top diplomat said talks were still necessary.

"Only dialogue and negotiation are the correct way out to address the Korean peninsula issue," Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told reporters on the sidelines of the ASEAN-China Ministerial Meeting.

Wang said the presence of North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho in the ARF will help Pyongyang "make the right and smart decision."