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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs