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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More