The Hanoitimes - The 10-member bloc discusses a wide range of issues, including maritime cooperation.
Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered on July 31 in Bangkok, Thailand for their annual meeting with an aim to expand trade and bolster prosperity in the region amid rising global challenges.
The 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) meeting catches public attention as it takes place in the shadows of China’s aggressive irrational territorial claims in the South China Sea, rising security tension on the Korean Peninsula, and the U.S.-China trade war, according to AP.
The 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: Thaipbsworld
ASEAN, which seeks to boost its own voice as a global player, this year plays host to a series of foreign ministers from key strategic and dialogue partners, including Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
At the meeting, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said that the 10-member bloc must be “more agile” amid increasing nationalism globally.
“Amidst a great turmoil, we must be more outward and forward looking than ever before.”
He stressed the importance of cooperation among ASEAN members and outside partners, saying the greater cooperation could help sustain long-term growth though and the road ahead “could be treacherous”.
“It is a difficult balancing act, but overcoming fear and distrust among ourselves, and between us and other powers will make ASEAN an integral part of sustainable global peace and prosperity that could lift all boats,” AP quoted him as saying.
For the struggle for influence between the US and China, ASEAN has been in a tight spot. Earlier in June, ASEAN leaders at their summit adopted an Indo-Pacific engagement framework that sought to find a middle ground and keep on the good side of both Washington and Beijing.
ASEAN’s concerns about China are sharpest in the South China Sea, where Beijing uses a projection of force to maintain a groundless territorial claim over a huge area which covers Vietnam’s territorial waters and with parts overlapping claims by ASEAN members like the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.
At this year’s meeting, “maritime cooperation” is one of the areas to be focused on, including the mention of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea to replace the largely political 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC)
Analysts suggest that even if the COC document is finally accepted by China, it will have no effective enforcement mechanism, and Beijing will act without any real restraints, AP reported.
Beijing can also count on its allies in ASEAN, such as Cambodia and Laos, to block any consensus to confront China more boldly, said the analysts.
In terms of economics, the prospect of economic cooperation seems brighter and there are hopes that most of negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) can be completed by the end of this year. RCEP would include non-ASEAN members such as Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea.