HANOI - Asian and European foreign ministers held talks in Vietnam on Monday that were quickly overshadowed by North Korea's nuclear test and outrage at the trial of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The global financial crisis, pandemic flu and climate change are among the grab-bag of issues on the agenda of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) involving 45 member countries.
But events in Asia's two most secretive regimes loomed over the gathering as it got underway in Vietnam's capital, Hanoi.
Japan's Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and his South Korean counterpart Yu Myung-hwan met on the sidelines of the summit and agreed to work on a coordinated response to Pyongyang's actions. [nSP430938]
There was a consensus between the two that we must act together, we must coordinate our positions, Kazuo Kodama, Japan's foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters.
He aid the two countries would seek closer cooperation with the United States and China, although analysts said Beijing is unlikely to back stronger sanctions against North Korea.
European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said North Korea clearly violated a U.N. Security Council resolution which prohibits it from carrying out nuclear tests.
North Korea is not a member of ASEM, a grouping that accounts for nearly 60 percent of the world's population and 60 percent of global trade. ASEM is often described as a chat-shop because its statements are usually non-binding. However, Japan's Kodama said the group may issue a separate statement on North Korea.
FREE SUU KYI
Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win faced pressure from his European counterparts to free Suu Kyi, who is accused of violating her house arrest after allowing an uninvited American intruder to stay in her home in early May.
The trial, which began on May 18 and could see the Nobel laureate jailed for up to five years, has sparked international outrage and European threats of tougher sanctions.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the rotating chair of the European Union, pressed for Suu Kyi's release in his talks with Nyan Win.
Kohout did not say how Nyan Win responded.
Ferrero-Waldner, also scheduled to meet Nyan Win, said she would press for the release of all prisoners and foremost also Aung San Suu Kyi.
Speaking in Bangkok earlier, Ferrero-Waldner appealed to Myanmar's neighbors to exert their influence on the generals.
China, India and of course the ASEAN countries, they are the real neighbors here. They work with the country and so they have the best influence, she said.
China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi declined to comment at the ASEM meeting, but Beijing said last week Myanmar should be left to handle its own internal affairs.
British junior foreign minister Bill Rammell said he would seek the strongest possible call from ASEM that Aung San Suu Kyi's release has to be the start of a process of political reconciliation.
Thailand, the current chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), defended its unusually direct statement issued on behalf of the group that Suu Kyi's trial threatened Myanmar's honor and credibility.
Myanmar, a member of ASEAN and ASEM, accused Bangkok on Sunday of meddling in its internal affairs.
Speaking to reporters in Hanoi, Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya said the statement would not be withdrawn. He said the group wanted national reconciliation in Myanmar and the junta's promised elections next year to be inclusive.
That means releasing all political prisoners and Daw Suu Kyi to make the election legitimate, said Kasit, who was due to meet Nyan Win later on Monday.