PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte threw his support behind Japan’s call to increase pressure on North Korea and cautioned President Kim Jong-un not to threaten the world with his nuclear missiles.
Duterte made the assurance in a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Pasay City on Monday night.
In his remarks during the meeting, Duterte assured Abe of Philippines support for Japan’s position against North Korea as it was a “matter of interest” for the two countries.
“We have said it several times already in the past that it is not to the interest of North Korea to swagger around and threaten the world, of keeping us hostage with the atomic weapons,” Duterte told Abe.
Abe stressed that Pyongyang’s nuclear activities and missile tests were “grave and imminent” threats.
“We need to make North Korea change their policy by enhancing the pressure applied to North Korea to the highest level by all available means, including the full implementation of the [United Nations] Security Council’s resolutions,” Abe said in his remarks.
Duterte said Kim should realize that he would be held responsible in the event that Pyongyang’s nuclear activities cause a global catastrophe.
“We condemn his several launching of missiles. It is bad. It puts a strain on everybody, not only on Japan but all over the world,” the President said.
“And he should realize that he’d be responsible for ending life in this planet if his mind goes out of control,” he added.
Duterte also said the Asean was doing its part to try to persuade Kim to stop his nuclear amibitions.
“That is why we are persuading him, maybe pleading (with) him to stop the aggressive posture because we are not… The Philippines is about too far but, you know, nobody will save us from a holocaust if it happens,” he said.
“We condemn the continued posturing of North Korea with the nuclear weapons,” the President added.
On Sunday, Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh told The Manila Times the de-escalation of tensions in the Korean Peninsula was the 10-member bloc’s priority.
Asean is also for the eventual denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the Vietnamese diplomat stressed.
“Asean stands ready to play a constructive role in the search of a solution to the situation,” he said in an interview.
Minh said Asean would like to exercise this role with respect to all relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korea has continued to beef up its nuclear program despite UN Security Council sanctions and widespread condemnation by the international community.
The rogue state previously threatened to launch ballistic missiles toward Guam, where a US military base is located, prompting US President Donald Trump to declare that he would meet any threat to his country with “fire and fury.”
Japan and South Korea, East Asian countries that also host US military installations, are likewise bracing for possible missile attacks.
Duterte also called on the Asean and its dialogue partners South Korea, Japan and China to maintain peace in the East Asia region.
“I urge my fellow leaders to continue nurturing peaceful co-existence, particularly within the Asean Plus Three, where we consider ourselves as one and a family. Over the past two decades, our cooperation continued to flourish steadily among the Asean external partners’ cooperation. Sharing common traits and values deeply embedded in our traditions should help us develop a culture of tolerance and understanding among us, providing a space for positive dialogue,” Duterte said in his speech at the Asean Plus Three (APT) 20th Commemorative Summit held in Manila.
China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang agreed, saying APT cooperation enabled Asian countries to jointly respond to the aid of the region when it was hit by a financial crisis.
“Twenty years ago, we played a vital role in responding to the financial crisis in Southeast Asia. We need to carry forward this fine tradition. I hope that through this Summit, we can build consensus and send a positive signal that we firmly support regional integration and advance East Asia Economic Community so as to benefit the people and the country in the region,” Li said.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said APT alliance has broadened to include food security, energy, environment, and health.
“In the midst of concerns about the rise of protectionism and inward looking orientation in the world, in order to enhance predictability of the economies of the region and the world, to mitigate vulnerabilities and to maintain and strengthen the free trading system, the significance of financial cooperation between the Asean Plus Three becomes increasingly greater,” Abe pointed out.
He said Japan will supply rice to Laos and Myanmar this year through the APT emergency rice reserve agreement. Tokyo will also give aid to the Marawi evacuees.
WITH FELIPE F. SALVOSA 2ND