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Asean urged to help put pressure on North Korea

/ 12:47 AM May 22, 2017

SEOUL—Security experts urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to do more to help resolve the crisis in the Korean peninsula, with some analysts suggesting the Philippines become a third-party facilitator of denuclearization talks.

“Asean should take part in putting pressure on North Korea and discussing the issue,” said a former South Korean official who asked not to be identified.

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For instance, the official said the Asean Regional Forum, which North Korea joined in 2000, was officially discussing issues in the Korean peninsula, such as the denuclearization of North Korea.

The Asean Regional Forum is comprised of all 10 Asean members and seven partner nations, including the two Koreas. The Philippines is the current Asean chair.

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Eric Harwit, a professor at the University of Hawaii, suggests the possibility of the Philippines becoming a third-party facilitator of discussions.

“The Philippines could be a nice choice here, especially with relations improving between the Philippines and China,” Harwit said.

Lonny Carlile, director of the Center for Japan Studies at the University of Hawaii, said President Duterte could also serve as a facilitator of consensus between China and the US.

“There’s a limit to what he can do. He’d have to facilitate, but he can’t enforce a bilateral dialogue. But if he could make it happen, that would be wonderful,” he said.

For the analysts from the University of Hawaii, Asean can help diffuse tension in the Korean peninsula, but only as a “disinterested facilitator.”

Carlile said Asean could play the role of a disinterested facilitator because of its location in Asia.

“It does not have interest in the conflict in North Korea, and so it plays a better position to be a facilitator,” he said.

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But Carlile warned that “the potential gains and the likelihood of such gains are pretty limited.”

“I think it’s better to stay on the sidelines. If there are opportunities to facilitate peacemaking as opposed to being directly involved,” Carlile said.

Dr. Chaibong Hahm, president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, echoed the same sentiment, saying South Korea and Asean should start imposing secondary sanctions.

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