Tillerson to seek action on North Korea during Asia meeting

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson poses with ASEAN foreign ministers prior to a luncheon at the State Department in Washington, DC, on May 4, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Southeast Asian foreign ministers on Thursday to do more to help cut funding streams for North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and to minimize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.

"And so countries have agreed, and in some cases have limited the size or reduced the size of the North Korean diplomatic presence in their countries", Murphy said.

Trump also slashed USA funding to United Nations foreign programs and signalled plans to drastically scale back the power of the United States Agency for International Development, which sends aid to foreign countries in times of crisis.

On the global front, Washington is expected to push the worldwide community including China to limit North Korean coal imports according to the UN Security Council resolution and downgrade or sever diplomatic relations with Pyongyang to deepen the regime's economic and diplomatic isolation as brought up by Tillerson at the UN Security Council meeting last month.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy said Tillerson urged ASEAN members to consider cutting or downgrading diplomatic relations with Pyongyang to limit financial transactions under diplomatic cover that help fund North Korea's nuclear program. "But as you've heard me say, we are not going to negotiate our way to the negotiating table".

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(Reuters:3215) "So we're trying to be very, very clear and resolute in our message to them: That your future security and economic prosperity can only be achieved through your following your commitments to denuclearize". "Our immediate concern is that the tension in the peninsula does not increase, because the more it increases the more danger of some kind of miscalculation". USA officials say they are also asking China to use its influence with more China-friendly ASEAN members, such as Laos and Cambodia, to persuade them to do the same.

In testimony to a House subcommittee, General Raymond Thomas said USA special operations forces are set to conduct operations against the North's nuclear and missile facilities, the US media reported. "The last thing we would really like to see is to have a conflict break out".

Washington said there was a shared concern among the Southeast Asian bloc that North Korea's provocation has threatened the stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe.

Murphy said Tillerson stressed that ASEAN remained a "very important. strategic partner", which is shown by Trump's commitment to attend regional summits in the Philippines and Vietnam in November.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the South China Sea issue is neither a problem between China and ASEAN, nor between the US and ASEAN.

The Philippine President also said Trump asked him to call Chinese President Xi Jinping to seek Beijing's intervention in the increasingly tense situation in the Korean peninsula. US officials are also asking China to urge more China-friendly ASEAN members, such as Laos and Cambodia, to do the same.

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