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ASEAN Diplomats Discuss North Korea

North Korean nuclear and missile activities were a key topic of discussion on Tuesday at a meeting of top diplomats from the 10 states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China, Japan and South Korea, Kyodo News reported (see GSN, July 9).

Foreign ministers from the 13 nations were expected during the meeting in Cambodia to call on countries to prevent taking actions that might cause more trouble in the region, sources said.

North Korea in April launched a rocket that broke apart within minutes of liftoff. The U.N. Security Council condemned the effort, which was broadly seen as a prohibited test of the North's ballistic missile technology. There have also been indications that Pyongyang is preparing for a third nuclear test.

The ASEAN member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (Kyodo News I, July 10).

The top diplomats from Beijing and Pyongyang also held talks on Wednesday in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, Kyodo reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reportedly called on Pyongyang to avoid aggressive actions that could forestall resumption of the six-party talks on North Korean denuclearization. The talks involve China, Japan, Russia, the United States and both Koreas; they were last held in December 2008.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun reportedly characterized his nation's nuclear operations as a means of protection against the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and said the April rocket launch was strictly in line with Pyongyang's nonmilitary space activities. The North has said the rocket was intended to carry an observation satellite into orbit.

Top diplomats from the six-party talks nations are expected to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum that begins on Thursday (Kyodo News II, July 11).

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