Tillerson meets ASEAN ministers to seek support on North Korea

Tillerson called on foreign ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to "minimize" the diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, "so that North Korea does not gain benefit from its diplomatic channels for its nuclear and missile aspirations", senior State Department official Patrick Murphy said after Thursday's meeting at the State Department.

Part of policy of maximum pressure on North Korea, Washington seeking to cut off Pyongyang's revenue streams The US Donald Trump administration is demanding reduced diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and the blocking of revenue streams to North Korea from Southeast Asian countries as part of its policy approach of "maximum pressure and engagement".

He said that North Korea abuses diplomatic privileges to help fund its arms programs.

Although China, North Korea's traditional ally and main trading partner, is viewed as the key lever of global influence, Southeast Asian nations have diplomatic relationships with Pyongyang and small-scale trade ties, and have sometimes served as conduits for North Korean activities that violate U.N. sanctions. Eight of them host North Korean embassies and five have embassies in Pyongyang.

Ahead of the lunch, Tillerson met separately with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (ret-noh mah-soo-dee) of Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia.

Asean ministers marked the 40th anniversary of Asean-US relations, and expressed "eagerness" to meet President Trump, who is expected to attend in November the 5th Asean-US Summit and the 12th East Asia Summit in the Philippines, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam.

On the South China Sea, Secretary Tillerson made a particular appeal to his counterparts that all parties involved to "stop militarization, construction and reclamation of land in the South China Sea area" while talks are going on.

In what was considered a victory for China, the ASEAN's joint statement released after the summit in Manila on Saturday was notably silent on China's defeat to the Philippines before the Hague-based arbitration court, which invalidated the basis of Beijing's sweeping claims over the South China Sea.




Tillerson said US foreign policy priorities had gotten "a little bit out of balance" in the previous decades, with the United States too focused on promoting economic activity and trade with emerging economies.

Balakrishnan, whose country signed the TPP, stressed the importance of U.S. -ASEAN business ties - annual trade of $100-billion supporting half a million U.S.jobs and $274-billion of U.S. investment.

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

However, a legally binding code of conduct has yet to be worked out. USA officials are also asking China to urge more China-friendly ASEAN members, such as Laos and Cambodia, to do the same.

The two sides underscored the importance of principles such as the peaceful resolution of disputes, with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes and in accordance with worldwide law.

USA efforts have included a flurry of calls by Trump to the leaders of the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.

US Vice President Mike Pence announced Trump's decision to join the Asean meetings in a visit to the Jakarta headquarters of the Asean in April. Duterte has spearheaded a war on illegal drugs that has left thousands dead and sparked accusations of widespread extrajudicial killings.

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