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Asean must remain credible, united, cohesive, says S'pore foreign minister
Publication Date : 16-08-2013
Asean must remain credible, united and cohesive as it navigates "choppy waters" at a time when major powers are increasingly competing for influence in this region.
"It is important that Asean remains credible, united and cohesive if we are to play a central role in determining the regional architecture," Singapore's Minister of Foreign Affairs K. Shanmugam said at an Asean Day reception last night to mark the 46th anniversary of the group.
In his speech, he said Asean has gone some way to restore its credibility since the Asean Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Phnom Penh last year when it failed, for the first time in its 45-year history, to agree on a joint communique due to differences over the South China Sea. The grouping issued a joint communique at the 46th AMM in Brunei last month.
"Nevertheless, we are still in choppy waters and we have to navigate them wisely and prudently, and we have to do much to safeguard our region's interests and the interests of our dialogue partners in Asean," he told about 180 guests, including Asean heads of missions and members of the diplomatic corps, at the Shangri-La Hotel.
"Asean will be a player in the regional geopolitical issues in future as long as we remain relevant," he said.
In his speech, Shanmugam also warned about the challenges ahead for the region.
"The major powers are increasingly competing for influence here. And they are interested precisely because Asean is successful," he said.
"While it is difficult to predict the future, we can constantly review the processes and initiatives within Asean to make ourselves more efficient, substantive and impactful."
He said Asean recently started a review of its institutions and processes, including external relations, and is also looking at ways to strengthen its secretariat.
"An Asean that is economically integrated, strong and coherent will be a magnet to attract investments, create jobs, manage regional challenges and be an effective platform to engage larger powers," he said.
Agreeing, Philippine Ambassador Minda Calaguian-Cruz told The Straits Times that Asean members need to maintain a dialogue with one another.
"Asean has a lot of challenges... We need to keep talking and to work as a community."