Asean looking at boosting regional security

ASEAN senior officials yesterday began a three-day meeting to look at ways to enhance regional security and discuss dates for a summit of Asian and European leaders.

Mr Rodolfo Severino, Philippines Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, told The Straits Times that officials from the six member-countries had a “very productive” discussion of these issues at the Beaufort hotel resort on Sentosa.

He said that the focus of talks was on the region’s security, adding that officials discussed the situation in the South China Sea, the Korean peninsula and Myanmar.

He said that they would also plough through proposed “confidence-building” measures for the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), to work out a framework agreeable to all in Asean before taking it up with the world’s major powers.

“We need to see what direction the ARF can take and what it can and cannot do,” said Mr Severino, who is leading the Philippines delegation to the meeting. Brunei is chairing the talks.

Asean is targeting to begin consultations with other participating countries of the ARF in Brunei in May.

The 18-member ARF, inaugurated in Singapore in 1993, groups Asean and the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Laos, Russia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea and Vietnam.

Asean officials had their first meeting on how to speed up implementation of the ARF in Brunei in November, following the inaugural ministerial talks regarding the security forum in Bangkok in July last year.

Also on the agenda was the Europe-Asia summit, said Mr Norachit Sinhaseni, who heads the Thai Foreign Ministry’s East Asian division. Senior officials would draw up a list of participants and discuss possible dates for the summit.

Thailand has agreed to host the summit, proposed by Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong during his visit to France and Switzerland in October last year.

Mr Severino said that yesterday’s talks also touched on Vietnam’s membership of Asean, Asean-China consultations, and discussed preparations for the Fifth Asean Summit in Bangkok this year.

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