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

Video Anti-Muslim Sponsor of Texas Cartoon Contest Draws Ire

Pamela Geller's supporters say she speaks truth about sensitive topic, while critics say she preaches 'that Islam is inherently evil' More

East Meets West in Exhibition Showing Chinese Influence on Fashion

Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition juxtaposes influence of art, imagery and culture, from Imperial China to the present day, on Western fashion and design More

South Africa Begins New Love Affair With Vinyl Records

Enthusiasts say the 'rebirth' of vinyl is resulting in a rebirth of music in South Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailandi
X
May 05, 2015 5:50 PM
Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Mass Grave Exposes Entrenched Trafficking in Thailand

Police in southern Thailand have found two more camps believed to have held human trafficking victims -- one containing a buried skeleton. This comes just days after officials announced arrests in connection with the grisly discovery of 26 bodies in a mass grave at another location. Officials suspect as many as 400 mostly ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar were being held for ransom at the remote camp near the Malaysian border. Steve Sandford reports on developments in the case.
Video

Video Russia's 'Victory Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

ussia is preparing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, known since the Soviet era as “The Great Patriotic War,” with a massive parade on May 9th of military hardware and millions of medals handed out to veterans or their relatives. But critics say the Soviet-style display of power and nationalism overshadows tragic scars during and after the war that still influence politics and foreign policy, especially in the current Ukraine crisis.
Video

Video WWII Anniversary Brings Old Friends and New Worries

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II has special significance, with Russia becoming more assertive in Ukraine and sending its military planes to the edges of western countries’ airspace. Changes in the geostrategic balance and the transatlantic relationship are felt across the continent, not least in German towns that have hosted U.S. military bases since the defeat of Nazi Germany. VOA’s Al Pessin visited Schweinfurt, Germany, where a large base closed last year.
Video

Video Abraham Lincoln Funeral Re-created for 150th Civil War Anniversary

Over the last four years, commemorative events to mark the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War have brought thousands of visitors to battlefields and historic landmarks across the country. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, the final event in the Civil War's sesquicentennial honors the final journey home of the slain American President, Abraham Lincoln.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs