Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said nations that helped North Korea in nuclear proliferation should be investigated and held accountable, even as she did not name any country.
Sitharaman was speaking at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM-plus) being held in the Philippines. This is her first international tour after taking charge as the Defence Minister.
North Korea has conducted several tests in recent times. “The nuclear and missile tests conducted by North Korea in violation of its international commitments, have triggered serious concern,” Sitharaman said.
“India has deplored these tests. We remain concerned about the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies which has adversely impacted India’s national security and that of the entire region. It is important that North Korea’s proliferation linkages are investigated and those who have supported its nuclear and missile programme are held accountable,” she said.
Pakistan has been accused of transferring nuclear weapons technology to North Korea, and China’s involvement as an ally of Pakistan has also been questioned.
Speaking at the meeting, being held in the Philippines which has been involved in a territorial conflict with China in the South China Sea, Sitharaman said that India supported freedom of navigation and rule-based order.
“Maritime security continues to be another key concern. India supports freedom of navigation, overflight and commerce throughout the region. Nations should resolve maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law. We support a rules-based order for oceans and sea that is critical for the continued growth and development of the Indo-Pacific region,” she said.
The Philippines had approached the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) concerning certain issues in the South China Sea including the legality of China’s “nine-dotted line” claim. A ruling was given in favour of the Philippines, which was rejected by China.
Sitharaman called upon all nations in the region to be prepared for conventional as well as non conventional threats to security and added terrorism and radicalisation posed a major threat. “There are no good terrorists,” Sitharaman said.
“Terrorism is now a trans-national phenomena which requires strong collective action by all members of the global community,” she said adding that social media and cyberspace have expanded the threat.
“India has taken resolute measures to fight the scourge of terrorism from across its borders. We fully recognize the role of joint mechanisms with our partners and the role of international and regional forums in fighting this menace,” she said.
The forum ADMM-plus includes defence ministers from the 10 Asean member countries and counterparts from countries such as Australia, China, India, Japan, US, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia.