Thailand seeks deeper cooperation as Asean foreign ministers meet

Thailand seeks deeper cooperation as Asean foreign ministers meet”

The core ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting brings together the group's top diplomats, but they are likely to be overshadowed by the big power players attending the adjunct meetings, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

The Asean Foreign Ministers will hold talks till Saturday and will also meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov as well as those of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Peru and the EU.

"It is a hard balancing act, but overcoming fear and distrust among ourselves, and between us and other powers will make ASEAN an integral part of sustainable global peace and prosperity that could lift all boats", he said.

The 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and related meetings, which are underway in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 29 to August 3, brings together representatives from more than 30 countries, including ASEAN member states, Dialogue Partners, ASEAN Regional Forum Non-Dialogue Partner Members, and Guests of the Chair - Thailand - such as Norway, Peru, Switzerland and Turkey.

He warned that the road ahead "could be treacherous" but said greater cooperation among ASEAN members and outside partners could help sustain long-term growth.

"Politically and economically, we are witnessing increased nationalism", Thailand's Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said in opening remarks at the summit.

At the event, ASEAN and Chinese foreign ministers discussed recent developments in the East Sea, many of them underlined the importance of building trust as well as ensuring peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the waters.

The struggle for influence between the U.S. and China looms larger than ever over this year's meetings, with their trade disputes fueling the rivalry.

China's aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea, which carries a third of global shipping, has drawn rebuke from the United States and become a flashpoint for the region, with parts of the sea overlapping claims by ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

Minh took note of the progress in the negotiations of the code of conduct of parties in the East Sea (COC) while reiterating ASEAN's consistent stance on the importance of enhancing confidence, non-militarisation, preventing actions that complicate the situation, and upholding worldwide laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982), towards achieving an effective COC. Beijing can count on the support of allies, such as Cambodia and Laos, and reluctance by others to defy Asia's superpower. ASEAN leaders at their summit meeting in June adopted an Indo-Pacific engagement framework that sought to find a middle ground and keep on the good side of both Washington and Beijing.

The prospect of economic cooperation seems brighter and there are hopes that most of the negotiating on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership can be completed by the end of this year. They're both working closely with us on our effort to denuclearise North Korea.

But it was unclear if the North Koreans would make an appearance.

Ongoing US-led attempts to prod North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons programme are expected to be discussed - although a Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said Pyongyang will not send a ministerial-level delegate.

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