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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    6 July 2012

Asean wants East Asia in connectivity plan


Asean foreign ministers will explore the idea of bringing China, Japan and South Korea into the group's connectivity scheme when they hold their annual meeting in Phnom Penh next week, the chief of Thailand's Asean Department said yesterday.

The regional grouping has developed a connectivity master plan to enhance integration, and wants the three East Asian powerhouses to play a bigger role in it, Asean Department chief Arthayudh Srisamoot said.

China, Japan and South Korea link with Asean through various cooperation mechanisms under the Asean+3 framework.

"If the three countries paid more attention to the connectivity of the group, we could utilise existing resources and cooperation mechanisms to enhance regional development," Arthayudh said.

Asean ministers will produce a paper, "Asean+3 Partnership on Connectivity", which will be put for endorsement by the leaders of Asean and the three partner states during their summit late this year.

Asean connectivity is aimed at developing hardware and software infrastructure to link countries in the region as well as enhance people-to-people relations.

The scheme is expected to strengthen the integration of the Asean community by 2015.

Connectivity is one of the issues that foreign ministers from the 10 members of Asean and its 17 dialogue partners will discuss during the meeting in Phnom Penh. They will also discuss the Drug-Free Asean 2015 policy, disaster management, economic cooperation, narrowing gasp in development and preventive diplomacy.

Also on the agenda are the situation in the South China Sea, particularly the possibility of establishing a code of conduct to ensure peace and stability. The South China Sea has become a hot issue, with many members of Asean, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, embroiled in territorial conflicts with China.

Asean members had agreed among themselves on the need for a code of conduct in the region, but needed to discuss it further with China, Arthayudh said. But he cautioned that Asean ministers might not be able to reach any conclusion during the meeting in Phnom Penh.

Several documents are expected to be signed and adopted during the Asean meeting in Cambodia next week including the Treaty on a Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons Free Zone, and instruments relating to the European Union's accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend several meetings, including the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting and the Asean Regional Forum.

Clinton will also lead American entrepreneurs in a meeting with Asean business community members in Siem Reap after the Asean meeting. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been invited to join the business forum but is yet to announce if she will attend.

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