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ASEAN expresses alarm over N. Korea nuclear tests, missiles

Associated Press logo Associated Press 28/04/2017 By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — Southeast Asian nations expressed "grave concern" Friday over North Korea's nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches despite a plea from Pyongyang not to be subjected to such pressure.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued their statement Friday on the eve of an ASEAN leaders' annual summit in Manila, saying the instability on the Korean Peninsula "seriously impacts the region and beyond."

The 10-nation regional bloc also urged North Korea and all parties concerned "to exercise self-restraint in order to de-escalate the tension and refrain from actions that may aggravate the situation," adding its voice to a growing international alarm over the crisis involving the North and its rivals led by the United States.

President Donald Trump's administration has declared that all options, including a targeted military strike, are on the table to block North Korea from carrying out threats against the United States and its allies in the region. But a pre-emptive attack isn't likely, U.S. officials have said, and the administration is pursuing a strategy of putting pressure on Pyongyang with assistance from China, North Korea's main trading partner and the country's economic lifeline.

North Korea has been quietly reaching out to other nations to ease criticism amid the barrage of U.S. threats, according to a Philippine official.

Pyongyang sent its Bangkok-based ambassador to Manila recently "to suggest that North Korea not be put under pressure" during the ASEAN meetings hosted by the Philippines, said the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to discuss the matter with the press.

One such meeting is the ASEAN Regional Forum, or ARF, in August, which is attended by the foreign ministers including those from the U.S. and North Korea. It is one of Asia's most high-profile security forums.

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