News / Asia

    New ASEAN Chief Seeks South China Sea Talks

    Former Vietnam Deputy Foreign Minister Le Luong Minh talks to reporters after a handover ceremony of the secretary-general of the ASEAN in Jakarta, January 9, 2013.
    Former Vietnam Deputy Foreign Minister Le Luong Minh talks to reporters after a handover ceremony of the secretary-general of the ASEAN in Jakarta, January 9, 2013.
    Sara Schonhardt
    The new secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has called for progress on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.  The ASEAN leader also recognized the ongoing political and economic challenges the region faces as it moves toward greater integration.
     
    Disputed terroritory

    The Association of Southeast Asian Nations welcomed its new secretary general Le Luong Minh on Wednesday, at a time when the regional grouping faces some of the biggest challenges in its 46-year history.
     
    Those include a slowing global economy, a rise in natural disasters and security threats that could jeopardize regional peace and stability. A key challenge will be finding a solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Several ASEAN members claim sovereignty over those waters, but so too does regional giant, China.
     
    Tensions there plagued last year’s annual ASEAN gathering in Cambodia, with leaders failing to produce an agreement governing actions in the disputed waters. The impasse seemed to highlight divisions between the group’s 10 member states and raised concerns that it lacked cohesion.
     
    During his speech on Wednesday, Minh touched specifically on the need for a solution.
     
    “In the face of complicated developments on the South China Sea, ASEAN should speed up efforts toward an early start of negotiations with China with a view to achieving an early conclusion toward of code of conduct on the South China Sea,” Minh stated.

    Call for dialogue

    Minh is the past deputy foreign minister for Vietnam, one of the four ASEAN countries that claims sovereignty over a part of the area. The Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei also say they have rights to the waters, which hold abundant fisheries, provide vital trade routes and are said to be rich in oil and natural gas.
     
    Analysts say Minh will need to maintain his neutrality given his country of origin.
    Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Marty Natalagawa, also spoke about the need for neutrality and cohesion as key to regional security. 

    “We must continue to be at the forefront of a regional architecture that promotes the Asia-Pacific’s peace and stability, a region that eschews violence and conflict. That instead promotes peaceful settlement of disputes, of partnership and of a perspective which recognizes that peace and security are actually common essentials to be shared and to be nurtured in the interests of all,” he said.
     
    Minh takes the helm of ASEAN from Surin Pitsuwan, a Thai national who saw the grouping through a border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, a regime change in Burma and devastating natural disasters throughout the region.
     
    In addition to building peace and security within ASEAN, Minh said another priority would be to ensure all member states are prepared for the ASEAN Economic Community set to begin in 2015.
     
    The economic community aims for greater integration within ASEAN through liberalized trade and investment, much like the European Union. But there are concerns that many of ASEAN’s less developed members will not be ready to handle the free movement of goods, services and labor.
     
    Minh noted those concerns, but also explained the benefits. “The more open flow of investments, capital, labor, goods and services will pose different challenges and opportunities for our member states. But it will also have a tremendous multiplier effect on the region,” he explained.
     
    ASEAN community

    Minh said narrowing the economic gap between ASEAN’s different members would be key to equitable development across the region.

    ASEAN has grown in size and economic importance in recent years, but some analysts continue to debate its ability to hold together. For now it remains a disparate grouping with economies that range from developed to developing and political systems that include communist Vietnam, socialist Laos, constitutional monarchies in Thailand and Cambodia and newly democratic Burma.
     
    Over the past year Indonesia has led the way on a series of important bilateral issues, with Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalagawa serving as a key mediator on South China Sea disputes. On Wednesday he offered Minh a piece of advice.
     
    “The ASEAN community as a sentiment, as an emotion cannot be legislated, it cannot be enacted through the adoption and implementation of formal agreements," said Natalagawa. "These sentiments must be nurtured, it must be cultivated it must be practiced.”
     
    Minh is the first Vietnamese representative to hold the post of secretary general of ASEAN. The five-year position rotates among the 10 member states based on alphabetical order. Next it will go to Brunei.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora