The Korea Herald/ANN
North Korea requested setting up a dialogue partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but the regional bloc has rejected the invitation because of the tense security situation on the Korean Peninsula, a Malaysian diplomat familiar with the matter said.
"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DRPK] requested it, [but] as of now I don't think it is being considered," Shahafeez Shaharis, director at the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' ASEAN-Malaysia secretariat, told a group of South Korean journalists visiting the country on an exchange program, according to Yonhap, as reported by The Korea Herald.
"They have to meet requirements [for partnership]. Under the current situation, it's going to be quite challenging for ASEAN to consider [the request]. I don't think it's an issue to be considered," the official said, highlighting that "We are focusing more on the situation in the peninsula to decrease."
His comments reflect the level of condemnation the global community, including ASEAN, has expressed over North Korea's recent series of military provocations such as the two nuclear tests in January and September.
"We are very concerned about the violations of resolutions by the DPRK," Shaharis said, referring to North Korea by its official name. "We, ASEAN, condemn and we share and express our concern."
The regional group of 10 Southeast Asian countries holds regular dialogue with South Korea, China and Japan in the form of ASEAN Plus Three. Currently, North Korea's engagement with ASEAN is limited to the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a multilateral dialogue involving 27 Asia Pacific countries.
The Malaysian diplomat also underlined ASEAN's focus on more engagement and dialogue in dealing with North Korea's nuclear issues.
"What we'd like to see is the situation on the Korean Peninsula not to stay as what it is now. We'd like to have more and more engagement, discussions and dialogue between all participants," he said. "We want North Korea to come back to the six-party talks and to [move] away from the confrontational diplomacy.
"The ARF is currently the only mechanism that has the participation of North Korea. Even though at the moment, it's very minimal... [but] this is an opportunity to engage and discuss the issue and come to an amicable solution," the Malaysian official added.
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