Saturday, June 29, 2013

ASEAN senior officials kick off meetings in Brunei

Southeast Asian senior officials on Friday started a series of meetings here to discuss a slew of issues and security challenges facing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as it transforms into a community by 2015.

Maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the fragile situation in the Korean Peninsula top the agenda during the series of meetings that will also be attended by ASEAN dialogue partners including the United States, Japan, China and South Korea.

The discussions are expected to focus on the roadmap for an ASEAN community, ASEAN's future direction and ASEAN's external relations, according to ASEAN officials.

In convening the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Commission, ASEAN foreign ministers are also expected to adopt a revised plan of action to strengthen the implementation of the treaty on the SEANWFZ. ASEAN has been trying to get France, Russia, Britain and the United States to sign the protocol to the treaty.

On Saturday, ASEAN foreign ministers will meet for dinner in preparation for their formal meeting on Sunday. Their counterparts from Japan, China and South Korea will also meet with them for the so-called ASEAN Plus Three meeting later Sunday.

The ASEAN foreign ministers are expected to issue a joint communique at the end of their meeting.

On Tuesday, the ministers will convene for the annual ASEAN Regional Forum Retreat, where they are expected to discuss the sources of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, the officials said.

ARF, the Asia-Pacific region's premier multilateral security forum, will discuss how to manage regional sea disputes and how to convince North Korea to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear program. North Korea will be attending the ARF.

Brunei, the chair of this year's series of meetings, is expected to issue an ARF chairman's statement at the end of the ARF meet.

The ministers of the East Asia Summit will also meet on Tuesday next week, the last day of the meetings.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The ARF comprises the 10 ASEAN members plus Australia, Canada, the European Union, New Zealand, the United States, Russia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Pakistan, North Korea, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Japan, China and India.-Philippines News Agency

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