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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid