ASEAN defense ministers call for end to N. Korea nuclear activities

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 24) Defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reiterated the regional bloc's call to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

In its Joint Declaration released Monday, the group expressed its "grave concerns over the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula," including missile tests being conducted by North Korea.

 

Defense ministers and officials from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei are in Clark, Pampanga for the 11th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting from October 22 to 25.

The declaration is similar to the call of ASEAN Ministers in their Joint Communique released in August 2017.

Read: ASEAN ministers denounce land reclamation, militarization in South China Sea

North Korea has fired 22 missiles from February to September 2017, as well as threatened to launch ballistic missiles at U.S. territories.

Related: US preparing for North Korea's 'final step'

One of these territories is Guam, which is located 2,500 kilometers east of the Philippines, approximately a three-hour flight from Manila.

Related: North Korea 'seriously examining' a strike near Guam

In response, U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday the United States is "prepared for anything" with regards to North Korea.

Read: Trump on North Korea: 'We're prepared for anything'

Trump added that China, an ally of North Korea, has also been helping defuse tensions in the region.

"They have been helping us," he said. "They're closing off their banking systems to North Korea. They have cut the oil way down. Now, the banking systems we can see, because they all come through (the United States) as you know."

For its part, North Korea said it is not yet ruling out peaceful negotiations with the U.S.

"Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the (North Korea) has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United  States," a North Korean official told CNN on October 16.

Read: North Korea rejects diplomacy with U.S. for now, source says

Meanwhile, ASEAN defense ministers also urged North Korea to comply with obligations by the United Nations (UN) Security Council.

In September 2017, the UN Security Council in a resolution imposed its harshest sanctions yet on North Korea for its missile testing.

The resolution is designed to accomplish six major goals: cap North Korea's oil imports, ban textile exports, end additional overseas laborer contracts, suppress smuggling efforts, stop joint ventures with other nations and sanction designated North Korean government entities, according to a U.S. official familiar with negotiations.

"Today, we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea, and today the Security Council is saying if the North Korean regime does not halt its nuclear program, we will act to stop it ourselves," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said.

"We are done trying to prod the regime to do the right thing, we are now trying to stop it from having the ability to do the wrong thing," she added.

CNN's Will Ripley, Zachary Cohen, Richard Roth, Alexandra Field and Maegan Vasquez contributed to this report.