News / Asia

Southeast Asian Nations, Partners to Discuss Regional Security

The flags of member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are pictured in Bandar Seri Begawan, April 24, 2013.
The flags of member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are pictured in Bandar Seri Begawan, April 24, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Foreign Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their dialogue partners are gathering in Brunei for a three-day meeting beginning June 29.  The ASEAN meetings are expected to discuss a range of security and economic issues. 

Top diplomats representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, 16 Western and Asian countries, and the European Union will meet in Brunei, a sultanate on the Malaysian island of Borneo.

The three-day ASEAN Regional Forum will address concerns about security issues in the Asia Pacific as well as political and economic cooperation.

North Korea on the agenda

Analysts say tensions on the Korean peninsula are likely to be discussed. North Korea, in February, tested a third nuclear device and then, a month later, threatened nuclear war against South Korea and the United States.

Representatives from all three countries usually attend the regional forum.

Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says while nuclear concerns are a priority, South China Sea tensions are more of an ASEAN focus.

“Undoubtedly, they'll also discuss the nuclear proliferation situation in North Korea.  But, I think the issue really to watch is the discussion on the South China Sea.  Because, last year they met in Cambodia when Cambodia was the chair and talks broke down pretty badly when the ASEAN foreign ministers, for the first time in history, couldn't come up with a consensus statement,” said Hiebert.

The South China Sea issue

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, putting it in conflict with overlapping claims by ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as Taiwan.

Cambodia's tight relations with China were blamed for ASEAN's failing to start negotiations with Beijing on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

The Code of Conduct is meant to regulate how claimants behave in disputed seas to prevent any flare-ups that could lead to armed conflict.

Thailand has been coordinating relations between ASEAN and China, but has made little progress on the issue.  Political analysts say Thailand, as a non-claimant ASEAN member, could be a credible broker, but has not been active enough.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, says Thailand is in a difficult diplomatic situation.

"On the other hand you have China, which is a resident superpower.  Thailand is very close to China.  So, somehow this balancing act.  It's difficult enough to achieve a balancing act but to achieve it and to promote and achieve a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea…is not easy," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak.

Beijing has been dragging its feet on the negotiations and in recent years has more aggressively supported its territorial claims with patrol boats and escorts for its fishing vessels.

Increased competition for the South China Sea's rich fishing grounds and fossil fuels has led to occasional clashes and arrests of fishermen.

Vietnam last month demanded compensation after a Chinese ship collided with one of its fishing boats.  In March Hanoi accused a Chinese ship of firing on fishermen near the disputed Paracel Islands.  Both countries claim the Paracels but Beijing has controlled the islands since naval clashes with Vietnam in the 1970s.

Ships from the Philippines and China faced off last month in the Spratly islands.  Similar tensions between the two last year lasted for months and raised the possibility of the U.S. getting involved because of a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines.

The U.S. declared a national interest in maintaining peace and stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

U.S. participation

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, is expected to attend the ASEAN meetings in Brunei for the first time. 

Political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak says Kerry is entering a trickier situation than his predecessor, Hillary Clinton.

"The South China Sea is now much hotter than it was under Clinton.  So, it's more challenging for the U.S. to play a role as a staying power, an honest broker, with friends and allies in the region, without antagonizing China, which is a rising power," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak.

At separate meetings in Brunei, ASEAN ministers are expected to focus on challenges to economic integration. 

ASEAN's ten member nations plan to form an economic community by the end of 2015 by lowering barriers to labor flows and trade.

But, Hiebert says while ASEAN claims 74 percent completion, some members are slowing down progress.  He says Indonesia, ASEAN's biggest economy, has introduced protectionist measures over the last couple years that make it difficult to import foreign agricultural products. 

“So, one of the toughest issues is, of course, how are you going to deal with the largest economy, which is, you know, basically half the GDP of Southeast Asia.  And, then you have the much poorer countries-Burma/Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia that are really very far behind and don't really have the technical, the personnel capabilities," he said.

Hiebert says Brunei is under pressure to make progress this year as Burma will take the ASEAN chair in 2014.  Many worry the reforming country may be overstretched and unable to push as much forward in the ASEAN agenda.

Brunei will host a final round of ASEAN summit meetings in October with East Asia leaders plus Australia, India, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.

ASEAN's ten members are Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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 Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid