Korea at top of Asean summit agenda

Korea at top of Asean summit agenda

The Philippines is this year’s chairman of Asean. (File photo)

Asean leaders are expected to discuss tensions on the Korean Peninsula at the upcoming Asean summit in Manila later this month while issues related to the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are still regarded as a “non-Asean” matter, officials said this week.

Regional issues, including the framework for a Code of Conduct (CoC) to help resolve escalating territorial disputes in the South China Sea, will be high on the agenda, they added.

Any violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions that threaten stability in the region, such as a nuclear weapons build-up, are likely to be touched on at the regional retreat from April 28 to 29, Suriya Chindawongse, deputy director-general of the department of Asean Affairs, said on Wednesday.

“If the Korean Peninsula becomes destabilised, this would also affect other areas of the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Suriya told reporters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Pyongyang, which celebrates the birth of its founding father Kim Il-sung tomorrow, has been working to develop nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles capable of reaching as far as the United States.

Mr Suriya said Asean leaders will use the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), the only multilateral forum on security in Asia in which North Korea participates, to seek long-term solutions to issues on the Korean Peninsula.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai are scheduled to attend the talks later this month.

The Philippines will chair all Asean summits this year.

Gen Prayut will also attend the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle-IMT GT Summit with his counterparts from the other two countries, MFA spokeswoman Busadee Santipitaks said.

The second Asean summit of this year will take place in early November at Clark Air Base on Luzon Island.

Meanwhile, Mr Suriya said a CoC framework is expected to be wrapped up by mid-2017 but this time frame may end up being extended.

“Asean and China share a common stance of getting the CoC done as quickly as possible,” he said.

Washington’s deployment of the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier, to the Korean Peninsula last Saturday as part of its “routine [maritime] operations” has sparked further security concerns in the region.

Mr Suriya also called for greater engagement among Asean nations on matters which he said are surely international in scope, including that of the “stateless” Rohingya in Thailand, many of whom hail from Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

“Myanmar would feel appropriate” as a subject to be broached at the Manila summit, he said.

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