ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Surin: Asean is a target for power play now
The 'projection of power' could derail Asean's efforts at negotiating a peaceful settlement of territorial disputes in the area, he told in an interview.
"That process is step by step... from political intent to practical implementation to a binding code of conduct. This cannot be derailed; it is in the interest of everyone to move it forward, but what is evolving is of concern that it could affect, if not derail, the momentum."
Two Asean members, the Philippines and Vietnam, immediately slammed the move. Both countries, along with fellow Asean members Malaysia and Brunei, and Taiwan and China, have overlapping claims on territories in the region.
Tensions have simmered for several years but escalated this year with increased naval activities by China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the disputed areas.
He said: "I don't think you can say, 'Please don't pay any attention to us', to anybody because we have become more important to the world compared to 10 years ago, so it's natural that all this pressure will be built up. The question is how to handle this."
Dr Surin did not refer to any specific power although he made a reference to "one major external party who happens to be a dialogue partner".
Washington has also increasingly played its hand in the South China Sea issue, calling for restraint from all parties and a peaceful resolution of disputes.
Last week, a whistle-stop tour of five Asean countries by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa managed to break the deadlock at a recent foreign ministers meeting, with the release of a statement outlining the bloc's common position on six points related to the South China Sea.
Dr Surin disclosed that members were also working on the text of a joint communique so that they could issue it ahead of the meetings in Phnom Penh in November.
He said he hoped the text would be ready before September 24, when Asean leaders will meet each other on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York.
The Asean secretary-general warned that failure to issue a joint communique would affect the confidence and psychology of the region and taint the cohesive image of the bloc.
Letters that do not contain full contact information cannot be published.
Letters become the property of AseanAffairs and may be republished in any format.
They typically run 150 words or less and may be edited
submit your comment in the box below