News / Asia

ASEAN Leaders to Discuss Territorial Disputes, Integration at Summit

South Korean President Park Geun-hye joins hands with leaders of ASEAN during a group photo, Oct. 9, 2013.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye joins hands with leaders of ASEAN during a group photo, Oct. 9, 2013.
VOA News
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the creation of a regional free trade area are expected to top the agenda at the two-day meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Brunei.

The annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) started Wednesday at a convention center in Brunei. Later on, leaders from the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and other nations wil join the talks.

Many of the leaders at the ASEAN summit traveled to Brunei directly from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which held its annual two-day meeting this week in Bali, Indonesia.

One of the top goals of the ASEAN summit is to advance talks on a proposed free trade area spanning the entire Southeast Asian region, which is home to over 600 million people. ASEAN hopes to create the common market area by 2015.

Hal Hill, a professor of Southeast Asian economies at the Australian National University, tells VOA the many different types of economies represented in ASEAN will pose challenges to the creation of such a free trade area.

"It includes free trade Singapore along with some communist regimes like Vietnam that have a lot of trade protections. ASEAN can't move and won't move like the European Union, but it will actually I think send a signal that it's open for business with increasingly open frontiers within the 10 [nations]," opined Hill.

U.S. President Barack Obama was forced to cancel his trip to both summits because of a domestic political dispute that led to a partial government shutdown. Representing the U.S. in his place is Secretary of State John Kerry.

The top U.S. diplomat is expected to urge ASEAN and China to resolve maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Four ASEAN member states, including this year's host, Brunei, have competing claims with China in the energy-rich area.

China is working with ASEAN on a long-delayed, legally binding Code of Conduct to manage the maritime tensions, but Beijing is reluctant to discuss the disputes at multilateral forums such as ASEAN. It instead prefers dealing with each country individually, giving it a much stronger position in any negotiations.

China has rejected accusations it is trying to divide Southeast Asian countries. Those accusations intensified after last year's ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, when disagreements over territorial disputes kept the bloc from producing a group statement for the first time in its 45-year history.

Hill, the Southeast Asian expert, said that Beijing did partly play a "divide and rule" strategy in the region at last year's summit. He points out that many Southeast Asian countries face a tough choice when dealing with China.

"The states adjoining China are very small, very poor countries next to a colossus, so they have to balance the importance of their relations with China, which is of course now the dominant economic and commercial power in the region, along with their attachment to ASEAN," noted Hill.

Hill expects ASEAN to form a "broadly united front" against China on the maritime disputes at this year's summit.

Some ASEAN members, including the Philippines and Vietnam, accuse China of using its rising military prowess and bullying tactics in the South China Sea and have formed closer military alliances with the U.S. as a result.

Obama's absence has prompted some to question Washington's so-called "pivot" to Asia. On Tuesday, Obama acknowledged China did not mind his absence, but insisted it will not affect the U.S. role in Asia.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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