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North Korean Diplomats Visit Philippines Ahead of Security Forum

Felipe Villamor
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (center) inspects the test of an anti-aircraft weapon system at an undisclosed location, May 28, 2017.

A North Korean delegation visited Manila on Wednesday ahead of a regional security summit scheduled for early next month, when Pyongyang is expected to counter pressure on its internationally condemned missile tests.

The delegation was led by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui Chol, who held a meeting with his Filipino counterpart, Alan Peter Cayetano. The visit was not made public until after the delegation had left the Philippine capital.

“The purpose of the visit is to discuss preparations for Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s participation at next week’s meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum [ARF],” a brief statement said.

The foreign ministry did not respond to queries on what was discussed during the brief visit. But it came as American officials reported heightened North Korean activity at a site in the city of Kusong, on the west of the Korean peninsula, in what security experts say may be a sign of a repeat of a missile launch earlier this month.

Early in 2017, North Korean diplomats warned Manila, as this year’s chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to avoid embarrassing Pyongyang during the Aug. 8 ARF meeting, which will be attended by foreign ministers.

The 27-member ARF is Asia’s only security forum that comprises the Philippines, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, and the United States and European Union.

In May, the Philippines said it supported calls for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and encouraged Pyongyang and Seoul to “continuously engage in peaceful dialogue.”

“While we value the need for transparency and the people's right to information, release of certain pieces of information, whether accurate or inaccurate, can affect national security and regional peace and stability,” the foreign ministry said then.

“As such, we appeal to the sense of responsibility and patriotism of all concerned.”

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