South China Sea claimants agree Featured

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho walks toward an escalator during ongoing meetings at the Philippine International Convention Center for the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings in Manila Philippines Aug.t 7 2017. (Rol

Kono called for collaboration to increase pressure on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and missile ambitions and resolve the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, the official said.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the ministers were divided over a United States proposal to suspend the North from the ASEAN Regional Forum, which will hold its annual meeting on Monday.

As this year's rotating ASEAN chair, Manila hosts meetings of foreign ministers from 27 countries that include Australia, China, India, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea and the US. "Imposing fresh sanctions is aimed at bringing the conundrum back to the negotiation table", China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

But Tillerson also has pointedly stated several times that the United States does not seek regime change or a rapid reunification of the two Koreas, which have been in a state of suspended hostility since an armistice was declared in 1953.

U.S. officials have insisted that while Tillerson and Ri will be in the same room during the Manila forum, there would be no direct meeting between the two envoys. It also prompted a rare rebuke from North Korean-controlled press against China, which it said was "dancing to the tune of the US".

The ministers "strongly call upon" North Korea, as a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum, to help "maintain the Asia Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity", the ministers said in their statement.

ASEAN foreign ministers issued the strongest joint statement ever, expressing "grave concerns" over North Korea's continued missile tests.

The urgency of the situation was underlined by President Donald Trump's national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who told MSNBC news that the USA leader was reviewing plans for a "preventive war".

"We hope again that this ultimately will result in North Korea coming to a conclusion to choose a different pathway, and when the conditions are right that we can sit and have a dialogue around the future of North Korea so that they feel secure and prosper economically", Tillerson said at the news conference. It is one of the very few multilateral events attended by North Korea's foreign minister nearly every year.

The collaboration by the U.S. and China is a sign that the measure - to be debated on Saturday - is likely to pass without being vetoed by any Security Council member.

USA officials have been adamant there will be no direct meetings with North Koreans in Manila, even among lower-level officials.

'I don't think that matters much, ' he added.

The foreign ministers of ASEAN and China also agreed to pursue a "3-step initiative" toward an actual COC.

Delegates are working to establish the framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea that would reaffirm respect for the freedom of navigation and overflight, and outline how to arbitrate disputes.

South Korea's Kang Kyung-wha exchanged words with her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho ahead of the ASEAN Regional Forum, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap and broadcaster YTN.

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