Top Korean diplomat meets with ambassadors from ASEAN countries

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 1, 2017

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will express "grave concern" over North Korea's recent test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in a joint statement to be issued after they meet this weekend in Manila, ASEAN sources said Monday.

This week's 50 ASEAN ministerial meeting and other related meetings will be on August 2 to 8.

The Philippines and three other ASEAN partners - Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam - are fighting alongside Taiwan and China for the sovereignty of several islands in the South China Sea, a strategic maritime area abundant in natural resources, which Beijing claims nearly in its entirety.

"We expect that the foreign ministers will endorse the framework as it is now approved by the senior officials in - last May - to endorse it during their meeting on August 6 in Manila", Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said.

According to Mr. Bolivar, there is no timeline yet for the enactment of the actual CoC, but the creation of the framework is "actually a very big step".

The endorsement of the framework would "cement" ASEAN and Chinese commitments to negotiate a binding code to ease tensions in the disputed waters, Bolivar added.

Asked if there would be a chance for the Philippines to finally bring up the landmark ruling that validated its sovereign rights in the sea, Mr. Bolivar said: "We'll have to see how the negotiations would play out on the code of conduct".

"Anything that is to our interest, definitely, we will push", the DFA spokesman said.

"I think with all the preparations that we've made, the country is very much ready to host this 50th Foreign Ministers' Meeting", National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) regional director Oscar David Albayalde said in a press briefing in Malacañan.

In both last year's statement and the draft of this year's communique, there is no direct reference to a landmark arbitration ruling in July last year that invalidated Beijing's claims to nearly the whole of the South China Sea.

ASEAN - a regional bloc of 10 countries comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - will mark its 50th anniversary on August 8.

"As of this time, we can not divulge their identities".

The Manila police chief specifically referred to former members of the Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB), the dreaded communist hit squad that was active in the 1980s.

An explosion injured 14 people in Quiapo last April during the 30 ASEAN leaders' summit. However, local authorities said the motive was a personal dispute.

The weeklong Asean meeting will be held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City and police have already been deployed to secure the place.

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