August 7, 2017 3:23 pm JST

ASEAN, Japan, China, South Korea agree to bolster financial cooperation

MANILA (Kyodo) -- Foreign ministers from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members plus Japan, China and South Korea agreed Monday they will bolster financial cooperation to promote economic stability in the region.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Asian financial crisis which sent shockwaves through the region and rattled currency and stock markets across the globe.

Tokyo will "closely" cooperate with the ASEAN countries, China and South Korea "in order to increase the predictability of a regional or world economic crisis," Japan's new foreign minister, Taro Kono, said during the meeting in Manila.

Kono also pledged Japan will make efforts to combat "growing protectionism," taking a clear stand against trade-restraining moves at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has touted increasingly reductive trade policy.

The foreign ministers exchanged views on a free trade agreement including the 13 nations, Australia, New Zealand and India, as well as infrastructure and maritime order in the region, a Japanese government official said.

At the ASEAN-plus-three meeting, the 13 countries also discussed how to address threats from North Korea.

Kono called for collaboration to increase pressure on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and missile ambitions and resolve the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, the official said.

The ministers gathered two days after the U.N. Security Council adopted fresh sanctions on Pyongyang that will slash the nation's $3 billion of annual export revenue by a third in response to its two long-range missile tests in July.

The sanctions resolution that China and Russia voted for was the seventh the Security Council has imposed on North Korea since 2006, when the country carried out its first nuclear test.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, which all have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Late Sunday, Kono held talks with Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, host of an ASEAN Regional Forum meeting on Monday. The two ministers agreed to work together to deal with North Korea.

The ARF is an annual security gathering involving foreign ministers from nearly 30 nations including China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and the ASEAN members. It is one of the very few multilateral events attended by North Korea's foreign minister almost every year.

Kono replaced Fumio Kishida as Japan's foreign minister last Thursday in a Cabinet reshuffle.

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