Officials from countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines expressed “grave concern” over North Korea’s nuclear program.
The defence ministers have called on the volatile nation to reign in its aggressive nuclear and missile testing as they voiced concerns over an imminent attack from the South China Sea.
They emphasised the importance of “safety and freedom of navigation in the area”, hinting at additional concerns the sea could become a missile testing ground.
The defence ministers highlighted the “need to maintain peace and stability in the region” in a joint statement on the escalating tensions.
Officials also called for “the resumption of dialogue to de-escalate tensions in the Korean peninsula” as they again asked for “self-restraint”.
They will meet with their counterparts from the US, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, Russia and New Zealand on Tuesday.
North Korea and the South China Sea are expected to be crucial points of discussion as the Korean peninsula becomes increasingly volatile.
South Korea’s top diplomat said the hermit nation is quickly reaching full nuclear capabilities, with more missile tests expected in the near future.
Speaking to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, Seoul’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said: “Parts of its tunnel have been destroyed after the North conducted the sixth nuclear test, but it has more than one of them so an additional nuke test can be done at any time.”
Ms Kang said that North Korea could complete its nuclear arsenal and be prepared for World War 3 within a matter of months, echoing comments from CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
The hermit dictatorship claimed this week that is has already developed a full arsenal.
Ms Kang travelled to Europe this week to seek international cooperation in dealing with rising tensions between North and South Korea.
The North has embarked on an increasingly aggressive nuclear testing programme, launching missiles at such a frequent rate that it has threatened to destroy its own testing ground.
It has also stepped up its hostile rhetoric against its southern neighbour, threatening total destruction of Seoul.
Despite repeated calls for a diplomatic solution to the rising tensions, Pyongyang appears uninterested in discussions and could be poised to attack its neighbours when its arsenal is completed.