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Myanmar to use Asean chair in seeking 'best solution' to South China Sea dispute

Publication Date : 17-01-2014


As Asean chair, the Myanmar government will try to find a non-biased solution that can be accepted by all the parties concerned in the South China Sea dispute, a senior government official said today.

Ye Htut, the president’s spokesperson, told a press conference during the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bagan that Myanmar’s non-biased approach would gain the trust of all the countries in solving the dispute.

“We have had a very good bilateral relationship with China for such a long time, and we are now implementing a strategic partnership with China. On the other hand, we have been practising an independent and non-biased foreign policy since 1948,” he said.

“I believe that our long-term good relationship with China will not become a hindrance but an effective mechanism to solve the South China Sea dispute.”

As the first step of compromise to solve the conflict, Myanmar will try to reach an agreement for the Document on Code of Conduct. After that step, the Asean chair will try to implement codes of conduct that all countries involved in the dispute will find acceptable.

“I believe that all the concerned parties in the conflict can negotiate in a peaceful way,” Ye Htut said.

Commenting on concerns over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, Ye Htut said, “We have been supporting the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula for a long time. I would like to say that Myanmar itself and Asean as a whole will follow all the United Nations Security Council decisions on North Korea.”

The president’s aide also discussed the challenges and opportunities Myanmar faces as it takes the helm of Asean.

“There are two main challenges. The first is that when Myanmar takes the Asean helm, there will be questions raised as to whether Myanmar can successfully handle regional problems without any bias. We must prove this,” said Ye Htut, emphasising the country’s practice of non-biased foreign policy.

“We are now in good relations with all the countries in the world. We will reaffirm this to prove that our good relations with one nation do not affect our relations with other countries in the Asean region.”

Ye Htut expressed his belief that Myanmar’s good relations with China and other international counterparts will enhance its ability to handle regional problems during Myanmar’s term as the Asean chair.

“The second challenge is that we are now carrying out political and economic reforms while we are chairing Asean. So while we do have to take care of regional affairs, we also need to accelerate our reform process at the same time,” said the deputy minister. “But I believe that we can overcome these challenges with the cooperation of the Myanmar people.”

The minister also talked about the opportunities presented to the South East Asian country as the chair of Asean.

“The most important opportunity is the recognition we receive from the international community and other Asean member countries, for the reform process undertaken by the government. We were isolated from the international community for many years. So regaining the trust of the Asean member countries and the international community encourages us to accelerate our reform processes,” he said.

“Another opportunity is that the Asean chairmanship will help government organisations to become more transparent. And there are also opportunities to boost the tourism industry and businesses related to the Asean Economic Community.”

The Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting, the first of its kind during Myanmar’s term as the Asean chair, is being held in Bagan from Wednesday through Saturday, with major meetings and sidelines scheduled for today and tomorrow.

During today’s meetings, ministers and delegates from all Asean countries discussed such issues as Asean community building, priorities for Myanmar as Asean chair, the Asean community’s post-2015 vision, and the adoption of guidelines on external relations.


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