Sat, Nov 06, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Terrorism, North Korea cause worry

ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM A gathering in Beijing of military officials from the 24 member governments spelt out the region's most pressing security concerns


Delegates to a meeting of Asia's biggest security grouping called yesterday for closer military cooperation amid concern about terrorism and North Korea's nuclear program.

The gathering of military officials from 24 governments in the ASEAN Regional Forum is meant to "open new channels of dialogue and exchange among defense officials," said its chairman, Indonesian Deputy Defense Minister Sudrajat.

The three-day meeting in Beijing brings together the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and countries with interests in the region, including the United States, China, Japan, India, Russia, the two Koreas, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand.

Delegates plan to take up "the role of the armed forces in coming days in combating regional threats," said the Chinese envoy, General Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army.

"It is our common mission to maintain regional peace and stability, to strengthen trust among militaries and promote cooperation among countries and capabilities to properly meet the challenges and changes," said Xiong.

Most of the forum was closed to reporters and Sudrajat said it had no plans to issue a formal report.

Delegates discussed territorial disputes and other regional problems yesterday morning and expected to take up a "new agenda" of troubles such as terrorism and drug trafficking later, according to the US envoy, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman.

The meeting includes all six governments in talks on North Korea's nuclear program, but Rodman said he didn't expect that issue to be discussed. A meeting of foreign ministers of the forum's governments in July called for a quick resolution to the nuclear standoff.

It wasn't clear whether the Beijing meeting would touch on member Myanmar's political situation. The July meeting of foreign ministers called on its military rulers to "add substance" to promises to bring democracy to their country -- a reflection of Western frustration with them.

The formation of the ASEAN Regional Forum reflects pioneering Asian efforts in recent years to reduce military tensions and for the first time seek joint action on terrorism and other regional problems.

China is leading efforts to arrange a new round of six-nation talks on the North Korean nuclear dispute, with no sign so far of progress toward setting a date. The other participants are the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

The last round of talks ended in July with no settlement and participants missed a September target for holding a new round after the North refused to take part.

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