Manila says cannot prevent North Korea attending ASEAN


North Korea is likely to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit despite U.S. suggestions the rogue state be suspended, local media reported Thursday.

Responding to a U.S. official's comments on Pyongyang being suspended from the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Philippine Foreign Ministry said countries could not be excluded.

"The ARF is a forum as evidenced by its title," spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said, according to the Inquirer news site. "We do not have expulsion provisions."

He added: "If the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] wants to exit, there are no rules for it to be prevented from exiting.

"As a forum, there are no rules for us to determine if a participating country should exit the forum."

North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have caused rising concern around the world. The country conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 4 and a second last weekend.

Bolivar suggested the summit, which will be attended by 27 foreign ministers, including Turkey's Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, could provide an opportunity to discuss the issue with Pyongyang's minister.

"ASEAN is the only venue where we can promote candid dialogue on North Korea's nuclear ambitions with key stakeholders," he said.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte attacked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over the tests. "He is playing with dangerous toys," the Inquirer quoted Duterte as saying late Wednesday.

"That chubby face that looks kind," he added. "That son of a bitch. If he commits a mistake, the Far East will become an arid land. It must be stopped, this nuclear war."

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