Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Next steps after East Asia Summit

By Sumit Kumar

The East Asia Summit (EAS) on Nov. 14 and 15 was held against the backdrop of a deplorable security and economic situation in Asia and the world. The summit, chaired by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), was attended by the heads of all 10 ASEAN members and eight other countries.

The leaders extensively discussed several issues of regional importance, including broad strategic, political and economic issues, with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region.

In doing so, Loong said: “We reaffirmed ASEAN’s central role in the EAS, and ASEAN’s commitment to work in close partnership with all EAS participating countries to ensure the EAS would continue to be an integral component of the evolving regional architecture through ASEAN-led processes.”

The leaders expressed their commitment to strengthening regional cooperation to address security issues, including safety and security of nuclear and other radioactive materials in accordance with national and international obligations.

The meeting also highlighted that cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region should embrace key principles, such as ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity and a rules-based approach to enhance mutual trust, respect and benefits.

On the issue of the South China Sea, the member countries “reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea, and recognized the benefits of having the South China Sea as a sea of peace, stability and prosperity,” and underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

This bold statement clearly reflected the growing concerns of the countries about China’s aggressive efforts to institutionalize its claim over the sea by building artificial islands and obstructing free movement.

With this in mind, the EAS has focused on promoting maritime cooperation as a new area of cooperation under the Manila Plan of Action, which includes practical and comprehensive action lines to promote this area of cooperation.

The member countries also supported further strengthening maritime cooperation among EAS-participating countries in a collective and holistic manner through ASEAN-led mechanisms, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus, in line with the 2015 EAS Statement on Enhancing Regional Maritime Cooperation.

At a time when terrorism has emerged as one of the most deadly global security issues, leaders at the EAS condemned attacks that had caused significant loss of life, and discussed the need for countries to support “a sustained and comprehensive approach involving the active participation and collaboration of all states ... and international and regional organizations to impede, impair, isolate and incapacitate the terrorist threat.”

This move will strengthen the voices arguing for stringent action against countries that support terrorist organizations and use terrorism as state policy.

On the issue of connectivity, member countries of the EAS expressed support for ASEAN’s efforts to implement the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025, which aims to achieve a seamlessly connected and integrated ASEAN.

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