Friday, 21 September, 2018

Tillerson meets ASEAN ministers to seek support on North Korea

Sandy Vega | 06 May, 2017, 08:10

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Southeast Asian foreign ministers on Thursday to do more to help cut funding streams for North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and to minimize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

Tillerson's first meeting with all members of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations will also address China's pursuit of territory in the South China Sea. He spent almost a quarter of his speech discussing either the nuclear threat North Korea poses or what the American relationship with China can look like.

"If we condition too heavily that others must adopt this value that we've come to over a long history of our own, it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests", Reuters quoted Tillerson as saying.

He spoke to a State Department Wednesday eager for answers about changing priorities and a sweeping, impending overhaul. "We'll sanction them through third-country sanctions". "The last thing we would like to see is to have a conflict break out due to some miscalculation", Manalo said.

Rex Tillerson said China has reaffirmed support for a "denuclearised" Korean peninsula but that U.S. would test their commitment. That report, plus Tillerson's remarks, prompted Amnesty International USA's Executive Director Margaret Huang to accuse the Trump administration of "literally trying to erase human rights before our very eyes".

Tillerson further urged world states to respect United Nations sanctions already imposed on North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, voicing willingness to use secondary sanctions against foreign companies that still do business with Pyongyang.

Some countries have told the US they "are taking measures and steps, relooking (at) the size of North Korea's diplomatic presence in individual countries, their activities, their commercial transactions that are conducted under diplomatic cover in the light", Murphy said.

He said he recognized that deep change to the State Department "is really stressful for a lot of people".

"And so countries have agreed, and in some cases have limited the size or reduced the size of the North Korean diplomatic presence in their countries", Murphy said.

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He said some countries were already doing this and also looking at the presence of North Korean workers, another significant revenue earner for Pyongyang. "They recognized the need for full implementation of all relevant UN Security Council resolutions", she said.

Trump also slashed USA funding to United Nations foreign programs and signalled plans to drastically scale back the power of the United States Agency for International Development, which sends aid to foreign countries in times of crisis.

According to the Daily Mail, the letter was in response to US military drills in the region.

Tillerson's remarks also made clear the central elements of the Trump administration's North Korea policy, summarized as "maximum pressure and engagement".

He defended the USA strategy to isolate nuclear-armed North Korea, but said conditions are not yet right for a meeting with dictator Kim Jong Un. That means Chinese firms engaged with the North could be hit with punitive measures.

This stance coincided with moves by China and ASEAN to draft a framework to negotiate a code of conduct.

"The region very much wants to know where the U.S. is going to stand on the South China Sea and - more broadly - what its approach to China is going to be", Ms Amy Searight, a former top United States defence official for the region, told the Washington Post.

Earlier this week, two U.S. B-1B bombers were deployed over the Korean peninsula during a joint exercise with South Korea's air force.

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