By Jim Gomez
MANILA, Philippines — Washington is seeking talks on how North Korea can be suspended from Asia's biggest security forum as part of a broader effort to isolate Pyongyang diplomatically and force it to end its missile tests and abandon its nuclear weapons program, U.S. and Philippine officials said.
Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that North Korea's actions have violated the conflict-prevention aims of the ASEAN Regional Forum, which groups the United States and North Korea with 25 other countries.
The Philippines is hosting an annual ministerial meeting on Monday of the 27-nation ARF which will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. Tillerson has no plans to meet Ri on the sidelines of the meeting, Thornton said. With the U.S., Japan and South Korea expected to push for stronger actions against the North, a verbal showdown looms at the forum.
"What we have been sort of looking at is having a serious discussion of what it would take for a member to be suspended from this organization that is dedicated to conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy," Thornton said. "I think we're going to continue to have that conversation as it regards North Korea."
"What we've been doing is going around talking to partners about what more could they do to contribute to that increasing pressure on the regime and the increasing sort of diplomatic isolation of the regime," she said.
Two Filipino officials told The Associated Press that U.S. officials have discussed such a prospect with Philippine officials, who told them it may be better to keep North Korea in the forum, where it can be persuaded to stop provocations through dialogue.
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