UNITED STATES Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will push for diplomatic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, with a top advisor stating the US hopes for a “chorus of condemnation” from Asia Pacific nations at a regional security meeting this weekend.

The Philippines capital Manila is set to host the annual Asean Regional Forum, with the US seeking another round of tougher sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime. The meeting is the region’s largest security forum and will see the attendance of diplomats from 26 countries.

Despite US-led attempts to isolate the North Korean regime, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho is set to attend. The State Department has confirmed, however, that Tillerson will not hold a bilateral meeting with his North Korean counterpart.

“What we would expect to see this year at the meeting would be a general chorus of condemnation of North Korea’s provocative behaviour,” said acting US assistant secretary of state Susan Thornton as quoted by the AFP.

On Tuesday, Tillerson reiterated that Washington had sought to persuade North Korea to give up its missile and nuclear weapons programmes through peaceful pressure, and that it did not seek a collapse of Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Ahead of the Asean Regional Forum, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the North Korean dictator, stating on Wednesday that “Kim Jong Un is playing with dangerous toys (nuclear weapons). He’s insane. Don’t be fooled by his chubby and kind looks. Son of a bitch, he’s a maniac.”

Recently, Pyongyang tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which flew for about 45 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan. The missile test reportedly came dangerously close to a passenger jet’s flight path.

Pentagon officials said the test presented the biggest potential threat yet as it demonstrated the North’s possession of technology that could put the US mainland in range of its rockets.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi meanwhile warned that all parties should refrain from escalating tensions ahead of the weekend’s forum.

Regarding North Korea’s recent missile launch, once again in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, China has already clearly expressed our opposition,” said Wang, as quoted by Reuters.

“At the same time, we also call on all parties not to take any actions that will lead to an escalation in tensions.”

China has signed up for increasingly tough United Nations sanctions against North Korea, but has also pushed for a resumption of dialogue and de-escalation by both Pyongyang and Washington.

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