Thailand tells Tillerson trade with N. Korea has fallen sharply

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha shows the way to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting at Government House on Tuesday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday that Thailand’s trade with North Korea, which faces UN sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missiles tests, has fallen sharply compared with last year.

Mr Don told reporters that he informed Mr Tillerson that trade value fell 94% during the first half of this year compared with the same period of last year, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.

“Thailand has strictly followed on those resolutions as a good (UN) member state,” he said.

Tillerson was visiting Bangkok after participating in a series of meetings in Manila organised by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Thailand is a member.

Mr Don said Tillerson expressed appreciation of Asean efforts to reduce tensions on the Korea Peninsula.

In a statement issued over the weekend, Asean foreign ministers expressed “grave concerns” over the escalation of tensions due to North Korea nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches and its most recent testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Noting that these developments seriously threaten peace and stability in the entire region and beyond, the ministers strongly urged North Korea “to fully and immediately comply with its obligations arising from all the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”

They also called for the exercise of self-restraint and the resumption of dialogue in order to de-escalate tensions and create conditions conducive to peace and stability.

The foreign minister said the statement was not meant merely to pressure North Korea but to address the issue constructively.

Mr Don said he and Mr Tillerson also discussed about such issues as cybersecurity, human trafficking and bilateral trade, in which Thailand enjoys a surplus.

Mr Tillerson also met over lunch with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who told him that his government will adhere to its road map to restoring civilian control in the country, under which elections are scheduled for next year.

He is the highest-ranking US official to visit Thailand since Gen Prayut lead a bloodless coup in May 2014 that overthrew the country’s elected government.

In remarks made at the US embassy, Mr Tillerson said, “We certainly hope those elections proceed as scheduled.”

He said that is significant because the United States and Thailand will soon mark 200 years of relations, which he acknowledged have had their “ups and downs.”

“We have been treaty partners for over 184 years, and we’ve been allies for over 60,” he said, adding that the strength of the security alliance is demonstrated by the many joint military exercises the two countries continue to hold.

Gen Prayut is tipped to visit the US in October, but Mr Don said it is not yet confirmed.

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