Tillerson has no plans to meet N. Korea foreign minister in Manila

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has no plans to meet his North Korean counterpart at a regional gathering in the Philippines later this week, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

Tillerson is scheduled to participate in a series of meetings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila starting Saturday.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho is also expected to be at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), one of few international gatherings the communist country regularly attends.

"The secretary has no plans to meet the North Korean foreign minister in Manila. I don't expect to see that happen," Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in a teleconference previewing his upcoming trip.

The U.S. continues to exert pressure on the North Korean regime to abandon its nuclear and missile programs, she quoted Tillerson as saying during a press conference Tuesday.

He also reassured Pyongyang that Washington does not seek a regime change in the reclusive state and would be willing to hold talks "at some point."

   Thornton said such talks could be possible in the future if North Korea indicates a willingness to enter into serious discussions about its denuclearization.

"What we would expect to see this year at the meeting would be a general chorus of condemnation of North Korea's provocative behavior and pretty serious diplomatic isolation directed at the North Korean foreign minister," she said.

Meanwhile, Kyodo news agency reported Thornton said that the U.S. will call for the suspension of North Korea's membership of the ARF as part of efforts to beef up pressure on the regime bent on developing missiles and nuclear weapons.

It quoted Thornton as saying that many ARF members would not agree that the North has violated principles of the forum but adding, "I think we'll see how that (conversation) develops over the coming year."

   A foreign ministry source in Seoul said that there has been no such precedent and that it seems to be just part of efforts to put more pressure on the North since it would be all but impossible to do so given that the ASEAN makes decisions based on consensus.

By Yonhap

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