Philippines hopes ASEAN Regional Forum for productive talks in North Korea
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs expressed hope on Thursday that the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum next week in Manila could be an opportunity to have more productive discussions on North Korea's continuous ballistic missile tests.
In a press briefing in Pasay City as the country hosts the ASEAN Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings this week, DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar indicated North Korean Foreign Minister Ro Yong-Ho, who will arrive in the country, might not be excluded from the ARF meeting, contrary to the United States' wish.
Aside from the United Nations, the ARF is the only venue where there is a round table for North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, the US, European Union and ASEAN, he said.
"It is the only venue thus far that we have to promote candid and free-flow dialogue, and to actually express our concerns to the North Korean side in a face-to-face manner, shying away from what (Foreign Affairs) Secretary (Alan Peter) Cayetano calls microphone diplomacy through press releases," he said.
"Hopefully, aside from expressions of concern there might be an opportunity during that dialogue to try to find some sort of grounds for proceeding to more productive dialogue," he added.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly has no plan to meet his North Korean counterpart and he would also seek for Ro's exclusion in the meeting as part of isolating the East Asian country due to its series of rocket launches in the past.
As to President Rodrigo Duterte's recent statement against North Korea and calling its leader Kim Jong-Un as fool, Bolivar said the Philippine leader was just expressing serious concern over North Korea's activities.
"I cannot speak on what President Duterte said, that is up for his spokesperson to say. But again this is an expression of concern on the part of the Philippines over the developments in the Korean Peninsula. We have 50 plus thousand Filipinos in South Korea. We are very close to the Korean Peninsula in terms of geography. In fact when North Korea makes ballistic missile tests, we are concerned because it may affect our flight information... the safety of overflight in the Philippine area of responsibility. So definitely it is a very serious concern of the Philippines and I think that is where the President is coming from," he explained.
The 24th ARF will be held on August 7 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
Meanwhile, Bolivar also expressed belief the South China Sea issue will be discussed in the upcoming meetings.
"ASEAN has always discussed the South China Sea issue in all of its meeting pertaining to regional and international security, and since ASEAN presents a forum for the member states and the dialogue partners to express their concerns on issues of international importance, we expect that there will be discussions on the South China Sea in the meetings on the coming days," he added. Celerina Monte/DMS