The image shows Opening ceremony of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Manila. August 5, 2017.
The image shows Opening ceremony of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Manila. August 5, 2017.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers have opened a regional meeting in the Philippines capital Manila, expressing grave concern on Saturday about rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The ministers traditionally issue a communique containing their diverse concerns, and their issuance of a separate statement on North Korea's missile tests and nuclear weapons program reflects their deep worries about the issue.

"These developments seriously threaten peace, security and stability in the region and the world," the ministers said in their statement.

They urged the North to immediately and fully comply with its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.

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.

All the countries involved in the so-called six-party talks aimed at taming the North's nuclear ambitions belong to the ASEAN Regional Forum.

But Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said at a news conference Saturday that there was no plan for those nations to meet on the sidelines of the Manila meetings.

"Just as ASEAN develops internally to become the respected regional organisation that it is today, so has it likewise successfully develop externally by establishing an intricate system of partnerships with various countries and organisations outside the region", Philippines Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said, stressing unity.

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.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Cayetano and ASEAN Secretary-General Minh unveil the painting of the ASEAN founding fathers during the opening ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Regional Forum in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines. August 5, 2017. (Reuters)
Philippine Foreign Secretary Cayetano and ASEAN Secretary-General Minh unveil the painting of the ASEAN founding fathers during the opening ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Regional Forum in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines. August 5, 2017. (Reuters)

Monday's meeting

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

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho will attend Monday's meeting.

With the US, Japan and South Korea expected to push for stronger actions against the North, a verbal showdown loom.

"There were views that, 'How can we hear them out or confront them if they're not there?' But there's also a view that we should give them an ultimatum," Cayetano said late Friday after discussing the issue with other foreign ministers.

North Korea is determined to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US.

Officials in Washington say its latest test a week ago showed it may be able to reach most of the country.

China has urged calm and restraint from all countries involved in the standoff.

Dispute over South China Sea

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gestures upon arrival at the international airport of Pasay to attend the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting, metro Manila, Philippines. August 5, 2017. (Reuters)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gestures upon arrival at the international airport of Pasay to attend the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting, metro Manila, Philippines. August 5, 2017. (Reuters)

On the territorial disputes in the South China Sea that embroil ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, the 10 foreign ministers on Saturday approved a framework of a long-proposed code of conduct aimed at preventing clashes in the disputed waters, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said.

The Philippines called the conclusion of talks between China and ASEAN to finalise the framework "a very big step."

But critics say the framework serves only as a brief outline of previously agreed principles and fails to mention concerns over China's newly built islands or an arbitration ruling last year that invalidated Beijing's claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

It's not clear if the ministers will push for a legally binding code.

The code will not serve as a tool to settle territorial disputes, according to the framework.

China has refused to recognise the ruling, based on a 1982 maritime treaty.

Source: AP