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Terrorism, North Korea top issues in regional meet

President Rodrigo Duterte  (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The issue of how to deal with the terrorist threat from extremist organizations in Southeast Asia is among the issues that President Rodrigo Duterte will raise during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Meetings to be held in Manila this month.

In a press statement released by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said stronger international cooperation in the fight against terrorism was needed, saying the victories against the Islamic State in Mosul, Raqqa and Marawi does not mean the group no longer poses a serious threat to the world.

“The defeat suffered by the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria, and the Philippines does not mean the fight is over,” the Secretary said.

Cayetano said the Philippine government stood ready to do its part in the international effort against the terrorist threat.

“The Philippines is more than ready to do its share in helping make the world a safer place,” Secretary Cayetano said, adding that Manila is looking forward to cooperating with other countries, particularly in intelligence sharing and capacity-building as part of the country’s counter-terrorism efforts.

DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano(AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Cayetano also expressed his appreciation to the United States, Australia, China, Russia and other countries for the assistance extended to the Philippines during the campaign to liberate Marawi from Islamic State-funded militants.

The Secretary’s statement came as the Philippines prepared to host the East Asia Summit, which coincides with the annual Asean leader’s meeting. The event brings together the heads of state of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States with the leaders of the 10 Asean members, namely, Brunei, Cambodia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand. Also joining the meeting is the leader of the European Union along with the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The terrorism issue became a priority after Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia confirmed that their nationals were involved in the five-month long siege that took place in Marawi City.

TRUMP AGENDA

However, after U.S. President Donald Trump changed his mind and confirmed that he will be attending the leaders’ meeting in the Philippines, expect the issue on how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program to be put in the forefront.

U.S. President Donald Trump

This is likely because the U.S. President has been focused on pressuring the government in Pyongyang to give up its program to develop nuclear weapons and missiles capable of reaching the continental United States.

Trump has repeatedly declared that his administration will not accept a North Korea that was armed with nuclear weapons. He also once threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if its government continued its nuclear weapons program.

With China’s top leaders and diplomats also attending the summit, it will also be likely that the U.S. will repeat its demand that Beijing do more to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

CHINESE STAND

During a press briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chun Ying said on Nov. 8 that her government will abide with all UN resolutions and sanctions against North Korea.

Her statement came in response to a senior U.S. official’s demand that China cut its financial links with North Korea.

China’s attitude on the DPRK-related resolutions of the UN Security Council is quite clear-cut,” she said. “The Chinese side always implements the DPRK-related resolutions of the UN Security Council in a comprehensive, strict and faithful manner and earnestly fulfills its due international obligations. As for the items explicitly prohibited in the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, we act in accordance with them strictly. If there indeed exist some activities or actions that violate the stipulations in these resolutions, once confirmed, China will investigate and deal with them in strict accordance with the law. What is beyond doubt is China’s resolve and sincerity in implementing these resolutions in a comprehensive and strict manner.”

She also called on “all relevant parties to create enabling conditions for peacefully resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through political and diplomatic means at an early date.

“We also hope that all relevant parties can bear this in mind,” she said. “This is implementing these resolutions in a comprehensive, strict, faithful and accurate manner in the real sense.”

TERROR THREAT

Aside from the issue of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, it is also likely that Beijing will express support for Asean’s efforts against Islamic extremism after the Islamic State terrorist group released a video explicitly threatening to launch terrorist attacks in China.

The video, which was released last March, purportedly showed ethnic Chinese Uighurs actively supporting the terror group in Iraq. The threat was that these Chinese Uighurs will return to China and stage a series of terrorist attacks.

This can be considered a potential threat because in the past, some citizens from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia joined extremist groups in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. When they returned to their home countries, they took steps to promote extremism and stage terrorist attacks.

Another threat was the issue of radicalization within Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, where the largest population of Muslims reside. This is compounded by the presence of a continuing insurgency in Mindanao, which makes the island a popular training ground for extremists in the region.

MIGRANT WORKERS PACT

Aside from these two hot issues, the leaders attending the meeting will also discuss common economic challenges.

Asean leaders will also sign the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, a landmark document that further seeks to strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services for the migrant workers of Southeast Asia.

At the end of the summit, Pres. Duterte will hand over chairmanship of Asean to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, the incoming chairman of Asean for 2018.

Prior to the 31th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on November 13-14, preparatory meetings at the levels of Ministers and Senior Officials will take place on November 10-12 at Clark, Pampanga and in Manila. G

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