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US pushes Asian nations on North Korea

U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, center, links arms with ASEAN foreign ministers before the 10th Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial Meeting, part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Manila, Philippines, Sunday Aug. 6, 2017. (Mohd Rasfan/Pool Photo via AP)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to build pressure on North Korea after securing a new round of United Nations sanctions as he launched into two days of high-level diplomacy yesterday.

Tillerson is in Manila for a meeting of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional bloc, but all eyes will be on his one-on-one talks with his counterparts from Washington’s great power rivals, Russia and China.

And he will also for the first time be in the same room as North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Hong-Yo, who defied US attempts to isolate Pyongyang to attend the ASEAN regional forum.

Ahead of yesterday’s talks, Tillerson visited the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City to pay tribute to more than 17,000 US and Filipino servicemen who died fighting as allies during World War 2.

Then he and his senior aides sat down with Myanmar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Kyaw Tin, for the first in a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the forum.

He is later expected to see Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, China’s Wang Yi, and South Korea’s Kang Kyung-Wha – all three key players in the North Korean nuclear standoff.

The State Department has previously ruled out holding any direct talks with North Korea’s envoy Ri during Tillerson’s stay in Manila. Just hours before the meetings were due to start, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to back a US-drafted resolution to dramatically tighten the existing sanctions targeting North Korea. (AFP)

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