(Left to right) Malaysia's Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Singapore's Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Chee Wee Kiong, ASEAN leader, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and ASEAN leader hold hands for a group photo during the ASEAN-Canada 40th anniversary commemorative summit in Manila, Philippines. EPA-EFF

MANILA: Malaysia and other Asean member countries have expressed their concerns over the escalating conflict in the Korean peninsula and want North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons programme indefinitely.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who led the Malaysian delegation to the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits which ended today, said Asean leaders also wanted North Korea to get back to the discussion table to ensure peace and stability in the region.

“I together with all Asean leaders have voiced out our concerns over the issue at the ASEAN-South Korea Summit on Monday which was also attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in,” he said in a statement to Malaysian media here today.

Najib said during the Summit, leaders also touched on the need to increase the economic integration between Asean and South Korea after conclusion of the ASEAN-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Asean and Korea became dialogue partners in 1989, with the latter now is Asean’s fifth largest trading and investment partner, recording trade volume of USD119 billion in 2016.

"We also extended our appreciation to South Korea for the establishment of the Asean Cultural House in Busan last September," he said, adding that they also discussed other aspects of cooperation, among others, in the areas of socio-cultural and education.

On his bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on Sunday, Najib said they discussed several matters, including the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Najib said in the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes, he stressed to Abe that Malaysia would call for a tender for the project and would consider the bids holistically before making the decision.

He said they also discussed on the cooperation in the area halal industry, adding that he also took the opportunity to thank the Japanese government for its contribution of two ships to the Malaysia Maritime Enforcement Agency.

Japan is pitching for the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to opt for the Shinkasen for the 350km-long HSR Link project that will cut travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to 90 minutes from about four hours.

However, Japan is likely to face competition from other contenders, including China, South Korea and European countries.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had on Thursday said that plans were on track to call for a tender for the project by the end of this year after the land acquisition process for the project began on Nov 1.

Today, Najib attended six meetings including Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Summit, followed by the signing ceremony of the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, the closing ceremony of the Summit and handover of the Asean chairmanship to Singapore.

Among the provisions of the landmark document are upholding fair treatment of migrant workers, granting visitation rights by family members, and prohibiting the seizure of passports. Other provisions include prohibiting overcharging on placement and recruitment fees, regulating recruiters, and respecting workers’ right to fair salary and benefits, as well as to join trade unions and organisations.

However, like all Asean agreements, the implementation of the Asean Consensus, which is legally non-binding, is subjected to the respective laws of the member countries.

It was reported that close to seven million – or two-thirds of about 10 million international migrants living and working in Asean – came from within the region.

Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam are the main origin countries of migrant workers, while Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the main “host” countries.

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