Topping the agenda are North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests, an attempt to temper South China Sea disputes and unease over a siege by pro-Islamic State group militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, which has dragged on for more than two months.
Foreign ministers and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh join hands for a family photo during opening ceremony of the 50th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Manila on Saturday.
In a separate meeting with the foreign ministers of five Mekong region countries, Kono said Japan will step up assistance to the region, including support for infrastructure and personnel development.
'We strongly urge (North Korea) to immediately comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. North Korea pulled out of the talks - which also include South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russian Federation - in 2009 to protest worldwide condemnation of a long-range rocket launch.
The foreign ministers met in Manila ahead of other ASEAN meetings including Monday's ASEAN Regional Forum, a key regional security forum which North Korea also attends.
"It is my privilege to be participating in this Special ASEAN India Foreign Ministers Meeting". With the U.S., Japan and South Korea expected to push for stronger actions against the North, a verbal showdown looms.
ASEAN ministers said in a communique Sunday they "warmly welcome improving cooperation" with China and are ready to begin substantive negotiation on the code of conduct, but made no mention of making it binding.
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"There were views that, 'How can we hear them out or confront them if they're not there?' But there's also a view that we should give them an ultimatum", Cayetano said late Friday after discussing the issue with other foreign ministers.
In their statement, the ASEAN ministers did not address the possible United States proposal for excluding North Korea from the ARF but called on Pyongyang to "positively contribute" to realising the forum's vision of maintaining Asia and the Pacific "as a region of lasting peace, stability, friendship and prosperity".
Robespierre L. Bolivar, spokesman of the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs, said the foreign ministers "endorsed the framework of the code of conduct for eventual adoption at the ASEAN-China ministerial meeting on August 6". "But the Philippines is trying very hard to broker compromise language".
On China's maritime expansion, Kono said that a free and open worldwide order of the seas, based on the rule of law, is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the global community.
A two-page document obtained by Kyodo News shows the framework contains a provision which states it is not an instrument to settle territorial disputes or maritime boundary issues.
Mr Bolivar said the Philippines wants to make the agreement legally binding, but added what is essential is to make sure the code of conduct is effective.