Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen addresses during the second Southeast Asian Nations Global Dialogue in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov 13, 2022. (ANUPAM NATH / AP)
PHNOM PENH – The 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and Related Summits in Cambodia concluded Sunday, achieving fruitful results for greater regional cooperation towards post-COVID-19 pandemic socio-economic recovery.
Within these four days, we have had a comprehensive and productive discussion on the way forward to strengthen ASEAN centrality and our value in relation with our external partners, particularly at a time when the world is facing the fast evolving complex regional and international issue.
Samdech Techo Hun Sen, Cambodian prime minister
"Within these four days, we have had a comprehensive and productive discussion on the way forward to strengthen ASEAN centrality and our value in relation with our external partners, particularly at a time when the world is facing the fast evolving complex regional and international issue," Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said at the closing ceremony of the four-day summits.
The week saw Hun Sen welcome guests from the United Nations, the United States, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Asia.
During the summits, ASEAN formally elevated its ties with India and the United States to comprehensive strategic partnerships, one year after its first two such partnerships were formed with China and Australia.
Speaking at the 19th ASEAN-India Summit on Nov 12, Indian Vice-President Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar hailed the deep cultural, economic and civilization ties that have existed between India and Southeast Asia.
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In a joint statement, ASEAN and India reiterated the commitment to enhance their cooperation in various areas such as maritime activities, counter-terrorism, transnational crimes, cyber security, digital economy, regional connectivity, smart agriculture, environment, science and technology, and tourism.
ASEAN and the US said the elevated partnership reflected the outcomes of the 9th ASEAN-US Summit in 2021 and the 2022 ASEAN-US Special Summit. At the ASEAN-UN Summit on Nov 11, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said ASEAN member states are well-placed to advance human rights, freedoms and a strong global economy.
Leaders from ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea agreed on Nov 12 at the 25th ASEAN Plus Three Summit that they will boost their cooperation for sustainable development, trade and investment, as well as regional peace and stability.
At the China-ASEAN summit on Nov 11, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China and ASEAN should enhance their partnership to build consensus on development and cooperation and jointly overcome challenges to build a close China-ASEAN community with a shared future.
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Li proposed the two sides take the opportunity of implementing an action plan on their comprehensive strategic partnership to promote the quality and effectiveness of pragmatic cooperation, strengthening growth drivers and tap potential for more cooperation.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol also voiced hope for the swift reactivation of cooperation mechanisms between Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo, while Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida expressed Japan’s intention to steadily promote initiatives, including in new areas such as the digital economy and resilient agriculture, based on the new ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan starting next year.
Henry Chan, visiting senior research fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said it was good to see that tangible topics such as free trade and the digital economy were discussed at the ASEAN Plus Three Summit.
Noting that China proposed that the ASEAN Plus Three members should improve their crisis response capacity, including promoting the effectiveness of the multilateral currency swap arrangement Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralism, Chan said the proposal is timely as many Southeast Asian countries are facing a currency depreciation challenge amid rising US interest rates.
It is also important that China and ASEAN have announced the official launch of negotiations on a new round of upgrades of their free trade area because, if it materialized, it would be key to regional cooperation, said Chan, referring to Chinese Premier Li’s speech at the China-ASEAN summit.
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The Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers also attended the ASEAN summit. ASEAN and Ukraine signed the Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia on Nov 10 to promote peace and cooperation within the region.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country will enhance its cooperation with ASEAN countries and elevate their ties to a new level.
On Nov 11, leaders of the ASEAN member states said in a statement that they agreed in principle to admit Timor-Leste as their 11th member.
The bloc, founded in 1967, currently comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Timor-Leste will be granted an observer status and be allowed to participate in all ASEAN meetings. An objective criteria-based roadmap for its full membership will be formalized and submitted at next year’s summit for adoption.
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Myanmar did not participate in the summits as the bloc insisted that it will only invite non-political representatives from the country.
While stressing that Myanmar is an integral part of the ASEAN, the bloc said little progress had been achieved in the implementation of the five-point consensus reached in April 2021 with the country’s military regime.
The five-point consensus aims to end the conflict in Myanmar through a peaceful resolution, after the military took power on Feb 1 that same year.
“There is a need for an implementation plan that outlines concrete, practical and measurable indicators with specific timeline to support the five-point consensus and, therefore, shall be developed,” the bloc said, adding the ASEAN foreign ministers will be tasked to develop the implementation plan.
At the closing ceremony, Hun Sen handed over the gavel of the ASEAN Chair to Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
With Xinhua inputs