Burma, S. China Sea Dominate ASEAN Summit Discussions

Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN Foreign Ministers from left, K. Shanmugam of Singapore, Surapong Tovichakchaikul of Thailand, Pham Bihn Minh of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia and Lim Jock Seng of Brunei wait for their counterpart from M
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN Foreign Ministers from left, K. Shanmugam of Singapore, Surapong Tovichakchaikul of Thailand, Pham Bihn Minh of Vietnam, Hor Namhong of Cambodia and Lim Jock Seng of Brunei wait for their counterpart from M
Irwin Loy

This week leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are meeting in Phnom Penh, where competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, Sunday's election in Burma and North Korea’s planned satellite launch are dominating discussions.

Burma’s political reform process has been a high-profile objective for the 10 member bloc of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Last November the group agreed to grant Burma the chair of the bloc in 2014 on the basis of its democratic reforms.

After Sunday’s by-election, which Burma had invited ASEAN representatives to observe, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa praised the vote’s execution.  

“As far as Indonesia is concerned, this is a very good development. An important step in further making irreversible the democratization process in Myanmar," Natalegawa said.

This year's chair, Cambodia, released a statement calling the election "successful" and "peaceful" and urged the international community to consider lifting longstanding economic sanctions.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said he was "encouraged" by the vote in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

"We hope that this will contribute to a more effective integration of Myanmar [Burma] in the global community and Myanmar and ASEAN will be able to work on other issues that will be more meaningful and contributing to the well-being of the people of Myanmar, rather than being stuck on the issue of instability and lack of political reconciliation in Myanmar," he said.

During the leaders summit this week, territorial disputes in the South China Sea are also expected to be a high-profile issue.

Four ASEAN members claim rights to parts of the South China Sea, along with China and Taiwan.

At a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, the Philippine's secretary of foreign affairs, Albert del Rosario, urged his counterparts to take concrete steps forward on a collective code of conduct, or COC, for dealing with the dispute. Del Rosario said he hopes ASEAN will formulate its stance by the end of the year, but acknowledged the group remains divided over how to proceed.

“I think the difference of opinion lies in the fact that we are advocating a draft of the COC be prepared before we sit down with China," del Rosario said. "Others are taking the view that China should be invited to come in for the initial discussions.”

ASEAN ministers also expressed concern over North Korea’s announcement of a planned satellite rocket launch. Observers have said the rocket trajectory could see it head south near Philippines, Australian or Indonesian territory.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa called on North Korea to refrain from the launch.

"We are obviously deeply concerned by the prospect of the launch of the satellite, both in terms of the safety and security issues," Natalegawa said. "But most of all, and not least, in terms of the disruption it is causing to the conditions conducive for the resumptions of six party talks."

Monday’s meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers is ahead of Tuesday's main leaders' summit.

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Comment Sorting
by: Phillip Sun
April 03, 2012 12:04 PM
Nothing are major problem than Chinese Brutalities to threaten world peace not only Asean. N-Korea and Vietnam has a lot of experiences attacking from China like Border war with Burma Which is unannounceable . Laos had already surrendered without fighting because it' was impossible , culture would be dissappear, the whole tribe would be killed and at last absolutely absolute colonized, and Laos country disappear from world map. . Selfistly bullying.

by: Henry T
April 03, 2012 7:08 AM
China just to buy some more times while bulding up their army forces,when they are strong,the power on their side with their jungle law,they don't care about others. Chinese leaders always said:Peace...,but look at their action,they have make trouble with all countries which share border around them,they never stop dreaming to expand their land,their history proved that,China today is ten times larger than China 2000 years ago!

by: China should be condemmed for its aggressive behaviours
April 02, 2012 10:17 AM
China hasn't behaved like a responsible & reasonable superpower.It has actually been bahaving like an aggressor,a thug & a pirate,stealing lands & seas from its neighbours,taking Vietnamese fishermen working in Vietnamese waters hostages,beating,torturing them & demanding ransoms from their families.South China Sea has never belonged to China,& it should return what it has seized by force to Vietnam & the Philipines

by: Mark
April 02, 2012 6:59 AM
ASEAN want to share the islands between themselves while China and Taiwan claim the entire island chains as their own territory

by: Shan
April 02, 2012 6:03 AM
Cambodia decided that the South China Sea disputes will not be discussed in the high leader submit. It is clear that Cambodia support China in this issue and they want to take the interest from China; However, South China Sea disputes is very big issue for ASEAN countries so I hope that this issue will be dominate by other ASEAN members such as Vietnam or Philippine that will make ASEAN to be more solidarity and good solution will help area to avoid a war in the future

by: Cả Thộn
April 02, 2012 5:18 AM
Pham Binh Minh from Vietnam should be the member of ASEAN that stood up to congratulate Myanmar successful by-election even if his own country remains to be a police state.

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