North Korea to remain in ASEAN Regional Forum

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 5) — Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged North Korea to cease nuclearization efforts, but stopped short of removing the hermit state from the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Saturday.

"We strongly call upon the [Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea], as a participant of the [ARF], to positively contribute to realize the ARF Vision to maintain the Asia-Pacific as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship, and region work," a statement from the ministers read.

It added the ARF must maintain mutual respect to "overcome security threats and challenges and prevent escalation of potential conflicts."

The statement also reiterated the ministers' "grave concerns" over North Korea's continued nuclearization, with its recent intercontinental ballistic missile tests last July 4 and 28.

"We reiterate our support for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, call for the exercise of self-restraint," it said.

It also urged North Korea to "immediately comply fully" with international laws and obligations under United Nations' Security Council Resolutions.

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

This comes after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked ARF to isolate or even exclude North Korea from taking part in the plenary session Monday.

A platform for dialogue

Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said the ministers seek a "conducive platform" for a dialogue between the concerned countries.

"Aside from the United Nations, it's only the ARF where they participate. And that's the only time we can really tell them face to face what the concerns are," Bolivar said in an interview.

When asked if the United States' proposal would be reconsidered, Bolivar said: "Well that would be up to the U.S. if they bring it up to the floor. Of course you will have to expect a reaction from DPRK on that."

The ARF is the only event in the ASEAN Related Meetings that North Korea is expected to attend.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano previously expressed the member states had to reach a consensus on how to deal with the rogue state. He added the Philippines is ready to take on a peacemaker role if the opportunity comes up.

"One view is, given their actions and the continuous testing of these missiles, what good is it to have them explain there? But the other side is that, in what other venue can we talk to them and can they listen and can we listen to them?" Cayetano said on Friday.

The ministers called on the denuclearization of North Korea last April, urging it to "exercise self-restraint…and refrain from actions that may aggravate the situation."

The April statement came after nuclear tests by North Korea in 2016, and amid reports that its Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho wrote the ASEAN secretary general asking for support in its row with the United States over its nuclear program.

CNN Philippines' Correspondents Claire Jiao and JC Gotinga contributed to this report.

Story updated 5:55 p.m. of August 5 to include statements from DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar.