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Asia Security Meeting Calls for Settlement on North Korea, Burma - 2004-07-02

An Asia-Pacific security forum, grouping some two dozen nations, has ended with calls for a peaceful end to the nuclear dispute with North Korea, more efforts to combat terrorism and more pressure on Burma to move toward democracy.

Two dozen foreign ministers from Asia and Western nations ended the Asia Regional Forum in Jakarta condemning terrorism as a worldwide threat and agreeing to work together to improve security in sea and air transportation routes.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the opening in recent months of several anti-terrorism centers in the region, in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Mr. Powell says this shows that the international community is coming together to deal with a threat that affects all civilized nations.

"It's important that we do everything to coordinate our efforts and to enhance our capability to deal with this challenge and that we train our people to deal with these challenges," he said.

The foreign ministers in their closing statement note the struggle against terrorism should conform to the United Nations charter and international law.

On Burma, the foreign ministers repeated last year's call for the military government in Rangoon to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and lift restrictions on her National League for Democracy party.

The European Union's external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, said the EU shares the aspirations of ASEAN, the Southeast Asia group, for democratization in Burma, but differs on methods.

"I don't think our objective is very different from that of our friends and colleagues in ASEAN and beyond in Asia, though I do think we disagree about the best tactics for achieving those objectives," he noted.

Southeast Asian nations support a soft engagement policy, while Europe and the United States have employed increasingly tough sanctions.

The foreign ministers also declared strong support for the latest efforts to end the crisis over North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. They endorsed step-by-step moves by Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs in return for matching incentives and aid from the United States and its Asian allies.

North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun met with Secretary Powell Friday in the highest level meeting between the two nations in two years. A North Korean statement says Mr. Paek told Mr. Powell that their countries need not be "permanent enemies."