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US’ Tillerson arrives in Philippines for ASEAN Forum

US’ TILLERSON ARRIVES IN PHILIPPINES FOR ASEAN FORUM

United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to arrive Saturday in Manila to take part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.

His first visit to the Philippines comes on the heels of Washington's call to downgrade diplomatic ties with North Korea that rejected the newly expanded United Nation's sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

Tillerson's visit also comes just weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives' human rights commission held a hearing on alleged murders as part of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

Friday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said U.S. officials are also expected to address, with their Philippine counterparts, how to resolve the security situation in Marawi, by addressing the global threat of terrorism and increasing Philippine-U.S. economic and people-to-people engagement.

"These discussions are all aimed at strengthening the old friendship between the two countries," the state-run news-wire service quoted DFA's official statement.

The DFA also understood that it is the American government's duty to talk about human rights, not only with the Philippines but with the rest of the world, it said.

"Because they are accountable to their Congress and their press as they advance their values and interests. We share the belief that no country has a perfect human rights situation," it said.

Discussions about human rights are always included in the country's engagements with foreign governments, particularly with Western democracies, the DFA pointed out.

The DFA also underscored the fact that the Philippines is the oldest democracy in Asia and "respect for human rights is a shared valued especially with its treaty ally, the United States.

"We welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and correct the perceptions they may have gleaned from exaggerated media reports," the DFA said.

Commenting on the U.S. call to downgrade diplomatic ties or isolate Pyongyang for its missile tests, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said it is studying how to downgrade because it does not have much engagement with them.

Rappler reported Cayetano admitted that "there has to be a person, a group, an organization that will look into the concerns of North Korea, which feels that their existence is threatened".

"But what we're saying is that you will not get us to talk about your security if you just continue testing those missiles. You don't threaten us to get us to the table," Cayetano said.

The 50th Foreign Ministers' 'meeting formally opens Saturday at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay city, Manila, where 27 ministers from the different countries are attending.

Cayetano told reporters Monday foreign ministers and key partners will likely discuss North Korea's missile tests in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). North Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong-Ho will attend.

The ARF comes following North Korea's second intercontinental ballistic missile test last week that reportedly deepened global fears over Kim Jon-Un's nuclear weapons strike capabilities.

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