PH backs move, China wants to ease tension

THE Philippines on Sunday backed the UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea even as China called for dialogue to de-escalate the volatile situation in the Korean peninsula.

“The Philippines has been consistent in its support for the various UN Security Council resolutions,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said.

In a separate interview, Chinese Foregin Minister Wang Yi said China would reject further sanctions against “sovereign states” such as North Korea.

“I think sanctions are needed, but by no means the ultimate goal,” Yi said after the UN Security Council  voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on its exports of coal, iron, ore, lead, lead ore and seafood.

“The goal is to pull the nuclear issue back to the negotiation table, find an ultimate solution to the problem through talks, and achieve denuclearization and long-term peace and security on the Korean Peninsula,” Wang said.

Wang said that the Chinese government is ready to cooperate with all parties under the framework of the UN Security Council to produce effective resolution which is consistent with the international law.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho is scheduled to attend the Asean Regional Forum today, Monday.

On Sunday, China and North Korea had a closed-door meeting but Bolivar said he is unaware what transpired during the talks.

Wang said it was important that Ri would be present so that he would have a chance to listen to the views of the 10-member Asean and 27 regional partners.

Tension in the Korean Peninsula is expected to dominate most the the discussions of 10 foreign ministers and 26 regional partners Monday.

Chinese Foregin Minister Wang Yi. AFP
Wang said the expected exchange of views on Monday will be useful for North Korea to “make the right and smart decision.”

He said that China proposed two conditions; one for North Korea to stop its nuclear and missile test and South Korea and the US to halt its joint military drills.

“This is currently the most realistic and plausible initiative and it is the most reasonable and friendly solution,” he said.

“This solution can alleviate the current tensions, it can resolve the most pressing security issues of all sides.”

On Saturday, the 10 Foreign Ministers of the Asean released a separate statement strongly urging the North Korea to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant United Nation Security Council resolutions.

During the Association of the Southeast Asian Nation Foreign Minister Meeting, the officials of the 10-member bloc also called on North Korea to contribute its vision of maintaining lasting peace and stability in the region.

“We, the Foreign Ministers of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations reiterate our grave concerns over  the escalation of tensions in the North Korean Peninsula,” the Asean foreign ministers  said in a statement.

North Korea launched its second intercontinental ballistic missile test last week, which deepened fears of the international community over its leader Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear strike capabilities.

Instability in the Korean Peninsula has long worried the Philippines due to the large presence of Filipino workers there, numbering at least 57,000.

An escalation of conflict is also expected to affect about 200,000 Filipinos in Japan.

The United States has said that it will press the Asean and its dialogue partners to downgrade ties with and isolate North Korea. The US is a member of the forum.

Washington also said that it is considering asking the Asean to suspend North Korea’s membership in the forum—a move rejected by a former top official of the Asean.

One day after Council members voted unanimously for a partial ban on exports aimed at slashing Pyongyang’s foreign revenue by a third, top diplomats from the key powers in the dispute met in Manila.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was encouraged by the vote, but officials warned that Washington would closely watch China—North Korea’s biggest trade partner—to ensure sanctions are enforced. 

Yi met his North Korean counterpart Ri ahead of Monday’s Asean Regional Forum and urged North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Pyongyang’s top envoy has so far avoided the media in Manila. 

But in a characteristically fiery editorial before the latest sanctions were approved, the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun warned against US aggression.

“The day the US dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland US will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire,” it said.

Tillerson was due to meet Wang and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later on Sunday, seeking to intensify Kim Jong-Un’s diplomatic isolation and reduce the risk of renewed conflict.

“It was a good outcome,” Tillerson said of the UN vote, before a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha.

Senior US envoy Susan Thornton said Washington was “still going to be watchful” on the implementation of sanctions, cautioning that previous votes had been followed by China “slipping back.”

But she added China’s support for the UN resolution “shows that they realize that this is a huge problem that they need to take on.”

The urgency of the situation was underlined by President Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who told MSNBC news that the US leader was reviewing plans for a “preventive war.”

“He said he’s not going to tolerate North Korea being able to threaten the United States,” McMaster said. 

“It’s intolerable from the president’s perspective. So of course, we have to provide all options to do that. And that includes a military option.”

Saturday’s UN resolution banned exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state.

Speaking to reporters after the council vote, Washington’s ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said “what’s next is completely up to North Korea.”

US officials have insisted that while Tillerson and Ri will be in the same room during the Manila forum, there would be no direct meeting between the two envoys. With AFP

Topics: Philippines , UN Security Council , North Korea , China , Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi
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