The Sun (Malaysia)

Indonesia warns Asean on ‘destructiv­e’ power rivalry

Widodo urges leaders of bloc to be neutral, and focus on staying relevant or risk oblivion


Indonesia warned yesterday against Southeast Asia’s bloc getting dragged into big-power rivalry as leaders gathered for a summit seeking to dispel worry about rifts over peace efforts in Myanmar and to reaffirm the relevance of their disparate group.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, opening a summit of the 10member Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), called on the group to devise a “long-term tactical strategy that is relevant and meets people’s expectatio­ns”.

“Asean has agreed not to be proxy to any powers. Do not turn our ship into an arena for rivalry that is destructiv­e,” Widodo said.

“We, as leaders, have to ensure this ship keeps moving and sailing and we must become its captain to achieve peace, stability and prosperity together.”

Former Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa said the bloc must adapt to challenges or risk oblivion.

“Obituaries on Asean have been written many times over but somehow, Asean has been able to reinvent itself and reassert its relevance. I feel, today, we are at one of those junctures,” he told an Asean business forum on Sunday.

Founded at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s to oppose the spread of communism, the diverse grouping prioritise­s unity and non-interferen­ce in members’ internal affairs.

But critics say it has limited its scope for action when it comes to handling issues, such as fellow member Myanmar.

Asean has banned Myanmar’s military leaders from its meetings.

Malaysia called on Monday for “strong” measures against the generals, saying they had created “obstacles” to the peace plan.

The summit comes after China released a “10-dash line” map, illustrati­ng its claim to an extensive portion of the South China Sea that will likely add urgency to negotiatio­ns on a long-delayed code of conduct in the strategic waterway.

Meanwhile, South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol said yesterday Asean nations must “join forces” to respond to North Korea’s nuclear threats.

In an interview with Indonesian newspaper Kompas, Yoon said North Korea’s missile launches “pose a direct and existentia­l threat” not only to South Korea but also to its allies.

“In times like these, the Republic of Korea and Asean must join forces to respond decisively and cooperate closely on North Korea’s denucleari­sation.” – Agencies

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