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Japan and Mekong nations agree to keep U.N. sanctions in place against North

Kyodo, JIJI

Top diplomats from Japan and five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River have pledged to maintain U.N. economic sanctions aimed at pressuring North Korea to achieve complete denuclearization as promised.

The agreement Friday came amid growing concern that countries friendly to North Korea, such as China, will ease up on the sanctions soon, eroding efforts by the international community to prevent Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

During their talks in Singapore, some Mekong nations told Foreign Minister Taro Kono that it is important to continue to keep U.N. economic sanctions on North Korea in place, an official of his ministry said.

Earlier in the day, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called for easing international sanctions on his country, according to a diplomatic source involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Ri, who is visiting the city-state, was quoted by the source as asking at a bilateral meeting with another country why U.N. sanctions have not yet been removed despite “much progress” being made on the North’s nuclear issue.

All the ASEAN members have diplomatic relations with North Korea but Japan does not.

Foreign ministers from Japan and the Mekong nations — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam — gathered on the sidelines of a series of regional meetings involving ASEAN, which the five countries are part of.

Also on Friday, Japan and the Mekong nations agreed to hold a two-day summit in Tokyo from Oct. 8, a Japanese official said.

Japan and the Mekong nations also agreed to promote cooperation in infrastructure development, human resources development and education promotion.

They confirmed they will accelerate efforts so a new strategy for cooperation will be worked out at the summit.