Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea agreed to bolster economic cooperation, voicing opposition to trade protectionism by the United States.

The ministers confirmed Saturday that they will speed up negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, by which ASEAN is trying to forge trade partnerships with Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha expressed fears about the negative impact of recent U.S. trade restrictions, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated that Beijing will continue to fight the trade war initiated by Washington.

It is important to "cement our economic ties" and "conclude key initiatives such as RCEP," Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said at the opening of a so-called ASEAN-plus-three meeting in the city-state.

Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono also said, "I am certain that RCEP will contribute greatly to economic integration in East Asia, given the current global situation where protectionism is on the rise."

Meanwhile, during the 25th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Aug. 3, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho met to discuss inter-Korean issues, but they did not have a formal meeting.

Remarks by the foreign ministers came amid mounting concern that the U.S.-China tit-for-tat tariff fight is likely to shrink trade volume worldwide, which would weigh on the global economy that has been on a recovery track.

Also US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday in a press conference on the margins of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum in Singapore called for pressure to be kept up on North Korea to achieve its denuclearization and said he expected Russia to abide by UN resolutions.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano says the rapprochement between North Korea and the U.S., along with completion of a negotiating draft of the code of conduct, are breakthrough. But he adds that "like any other breakthrough in diplomatic negotiations, they may lead to something great, they may lead to nothing."

New report showed North Korea has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs in violation of United Nations sanctions, despite US bragging about the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

US president Donald Trump claimed that North Korea was blowing up four of its big test sites and that a process of “total denuclearization ... has already started,” but officials like Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said there was no such evidence.