ASEAN Foreign Ministers Express 'Grave Concern' over N. Korea

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Foreign ministers of the two Koreas held talks on the sidelines of the ARF in 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2007.

Meanwhile, Kang held talks with several foreign ministers, including with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday evening, during which Wang expressed regret over the Moon Jae-in administration's decision to go ahead with the full deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, are seriously concerned over the escalation of the situation in the Korean Peninsula and reiterate their commitment to the Bangkok agreement on the nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia, according to the Joint Communique of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Manila released on Sunday.

Kang said that Seoul had expected a swift response from the North Korean side, but Ri rejected her suggestion.

Adding another layer of drama to the diplomatic maneuvering in Manila was the presence of North Korea's top diplomat, Ri Yong Ho, who planned his own meeting with China's foreign minister on the summit's sidelines.

ASEAN is calling on North Korea to "exercise self-restraint" and stop its missile tests that threaten the region's peace and stability.

Japan is likely to ask China to steadily implement the new sanctions and play a key role in dealing with North Korea.

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In the statement, the ministers urged Pyongyang to immediately and fully comply with its obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Ri attended his first ARF as DPRK Foreign Minister a year ago, during which he greeted his then-South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se.

This is the first time that high-ranking South Korean and North Korean government officials are reported to have spoken since the inauguration of Moon Jae-in on May 10.

The Philippines, which serves as ASEAN chairman this year, called the conclusion of talks between China and ASEAN to finalize the framework "a very big step". The ARF is a rare regional security forum to which North Korea sends its foreign minister annually.

Tokyo will "closely" cooperate with the ASEAN countries, China and South Korea "in order to increase the predictability of a regional or world economic crisis", Japan's new foreign minister, Taro Kono, said during the meeting in Manila.

Following the meeting is Monday's annual ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which gathers 27 foreign ministers - including those of Russia, Japan, South Korea, the US, China and North Korea - to discuss Asian security issues.

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