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ASEAN Defense Ministers Gather for First Time


Defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are meeting together for the first time in the organization's 39-year history.

Tuesday's gathering in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, aims to strengthen cooperation among ASEAN members on disaster relief, human security issues and transnational crime, including terrorism, piracy, trafficking and smuggling.

Burma opted not to attend the meeting, citing domestic commitments. A spokesman for the ASEAN secretary-general has called Burma's absence "unfortunate."

ASEAN members are pressuring Burma to make democratic reforms and complain the military junta is damaging the region's reputation.

Officials are attending the talks from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.