Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad says Australia should be kept out of a new East Asian regional grouping, saying Australians are Europeans, not Asians.
Asked by reporters Monday if Australia has anything to offer to Asia, Mr. Mahathir replied, "Nothing."
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations who met in Laos last week approved Mr. Mahathir's plan to launch an East Asian regional summit next year. The summit would probably include China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, in addition to ASEAN members.
However, Mr. Mahathir has objected to Australia's participation because Canberra has refused to sign a non-aggression treaty with ASEAN. Australia says such a pact could prevent criticism of the human rights records of countries such as Burma.
Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.