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ARF's top diplomats call for 'immediate steps' toward denuclearization

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- Top diplomats from Southeast Asian nations and regional powers on Thursday called for "immediate steps towards denuclearization" on the Korean Peninsula, stressing the need to resume the long-stalled six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuke programs.

In a chairman's statement issued following this year's ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the foreign ministers of 26 Asia-Pacific countries and the European Union also called on North Korea to fully comply with obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions banning its missile and nuclear activities.

"The ministers reaffirmed their support for all efforts to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and encouraged for creating conducive environment for early resumption of the six-party talks," the statement said.

They also called on the North to abide by a deal adopted at the six-party talks on Sept. 19, 2005 when the North agreed to end its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia have been dormant since late 2008 when Pyongyang walked out of negotiations.

The statement came as North Korea has ratcheted up provocative acts by launching a series of missiles and rockets in recent weeks, snubbing fresh U.N. Security Council condemnations. Pyongyang even threatened to conduct a fourth nuclear test, citing what it called U.S. hostility against it.

The top diplomats also "welcomed" North Korea's plan to participate in the upcoming Asian Games to be held in South Korea in September.

They also expressed hope the two Koreas would have regular reunions of families separated across the inter-Korean border since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The joint statement also commented on a recent deal between Pyongyang and Tokyo over the North's moves to investigate the cases of Japanese nationals kidnapped by its agents decades ago. The foreign ministers said they expected the two countries would make "concrete progress on the matter."

This year's joint statement came four days after the ARF wrapped up, indicating that there has been heated debate over the main agenda including territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

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