April 30, 2017
ASEAN Leaders are concerned about the rising tension over North Korea
by Mergawati Zulfakar@www.thestar.com.my
ASEAN leaders are worried that the rest of Asia will be the first to be hit and suffer from the fallout from a potential nuclear war if the current tension in the Korean peninsula is not contained.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte painted a bleak picture of what would happen in South-East Asia if there is war in the Peninsula.
“ASEAN leaders are extremely worried that there seems to be two countries playing with their toys. And they are playing with dangerous toys.The United States must be prudent and patient. We know you are playing with somebody who relishes letting go its missiles. I would not want to go into his mind because I don’t know what is inside but this is putting Mother Earth on edge. One miscalculation of any missile, one that hits somebody will cause a catastrophe,” he told a press conference after chairing the 30th ASEAN Summit.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was among the leaders who attended the summit.
Duterte also revealed that he would be talking to US President Donald Trump on the phone and he would convey ASEAN’s fear on war potentially breaking out.
“Am expecting a call from President Trump tonight. Who am I to say you should stop it. But I would say ‘Mr President, please see to it that there is no war because my region will suffer immensely’. The first fallout would be Asia and ASEAN. Very near, very dangerous,” he said when asked if ASEAN leaders discussed the Korean Peninsula situation at the summit.
Duterte, who made his debut as ASEAN chair this year, also sent a clear message to other ASEAN countries that the Philippines will be a “much friendlier” neighbour to China, especially in the contested South China Sea.
In the Chairman Statement issued at the end of the ASEAN Summit here yesterday, a proposed reference to full respect for legal and diplomatic processes has been taken out from the South China Sea section, a move seen by some senior ASEAN officials as silencing an international arbitral court backing Manila’s claims in the area.
The move has puzzled some diplomats as the Philippines under former President Benigno Aquino III had lobbied hard at ASEAN meetings to voice strong opposition to Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.
“After strong criticism against China, the Philippines now sounds like it is pandering to China,” said a diplomat.
An ASEAN official said the draft of the statement with the changes was only issued late Friday night and member states have given their input yesterday.
“But as chair, the Philippines can include what they want in the final statement, but as in past statements it must reflect the views of all ASEAN leaders,” said the official.
Duterte, in a recent interview, had said there was no point pressing China to comply with the arbitral ruling and it was not an issue at the summit.
The Chairman’s Statement also said the leaders reaffirmed the importance of enhancing mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities such as land reclamation and militarisation that may complicate the situation.