THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has expressed "grave concern" over North Korea's missile tests, saying these "seriously threaten peace and stability" in the region.
The regional bloc, which groups 10 Southeast Asian Nations, also denounced the emergence of terrorism and violent extremism, but said its members were ready to ensure regional maritime security by stepping up cooperation.
In the chairman's final statement on the recently concluded 31st Asean Summit held in Manila, the group also emphasized the need to exercise "non-militarization" and "self-restraint" in a bid to defuse tensions among claimants of the South China Sea and pursue a peaceful resolution of the disputes.
Asean member-states likewise reiterated their plea to North Korea to "fully and immediately" follow the resolutions issued by the United Nations Security Council (UNCS), which demand that Pyongyang cease its nuclear tests.
"We expressed grave concern over the DPRK's ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear and chemical weapons, and ballistic missile technologies, which are in contravention of UNSC resolutions," the Asean chairman's statement read.
"Noting that these developments seriously threaten peace and stability in the entire region and beyond, we strongly urge the DPRK to fully and immediately comply with its obligations arising from all the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions," it added. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.
Tensions between the United States (US) and North Korea worsened after Pyongyang conducted a series of tests of their nuclear weapons in recent weeks in a bid to advance their ultimate goal to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
On July 4, North Korea launched its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in an attempt to come up with a powerful weapon that could reach "anywhere in the world."
The UNSC adopted in September a new resolution that imposes fresh sanctions on North Korea after the latter carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test.
A report by international news firm Reuters found that North Korea on Monday, November 13, turned the tables on US, which they claimed was "running amok for war exercises by introducing nuclear war equipment in and around the Korean Peninsula."
This comes after Trump on Sunday, November 12, hit back at "short and fat" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's after the latter called him "old."
The statement said the growing tension between the US and North Korea should be resolved through a "peaceful" approach, thus, appealed that the two nations exercise "self-restraint" and start non-adversarial dialogue.
"We reiterated our support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and called for the exercise of self-restraint and the resumption of dialogue in order to de-escalate tensions and create conditions conducive to peace and stability," it said.
In the same statement, Asean member-states pledged to push for countermeasures to thwart potential threats from terror groups by engaging the people in preventive education, involving women and youth to counter hostile acts, and promoting peace and moderation in the region.
"We reiterated our strong condemnation of terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations," they said.
The Philippines, this year's host of Asean summit, only last month declared an end to the war in the Islamic city of Marawi in Mindanao, where the Maute Group and other fighters inspired by global terror group Islamic State engaged government troops in urban warfare for five months.
The armed conflict erupted on May 23 after a government raid failed to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, one of the leaders and purportedly the Southeast Asia emir of IS. President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated on October 17, after Hapilon and Maute leader Omar Maute were killed. Defense officials declared an end to the war on October 23, exactly five months after it broke out.
The regional bloc also condemned piracy and armed robbery at sea, but said they were ready to address these emerging threats through improved maritime cooperation.
"To further strengthen our capacity to combat this scourge, we expressed our readiness to cooperate with dialogue partners and other external parties based on mutually agreed modalities and consistent with international law and domestic laws," the group added.
Asean groups Southeast Asian countries Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, and Laos. (SunStar Philippines)