New ASEAN security forum mooted

The idea of a new regional security forum was tabled at the Shangri La Dialogue security conference last weekend in Singapore and could materialise in October this year.

The 10-member ASEAN [Association for Southeast Asian Nations] bloc’s security forum will have as its chair the Vietnamese defence minister, General Phung Quang Thanh. The weekend’s conference was hopeful that the new forum would help smooth over competing territorial claims and other regional issues in Southeast Asia.

The October meeting in Hanoi is expected to draw delegations from major international nations such as Russia, India and, tellingly, the US and China, who have been at loggerheads over security and economic issues in the region.

But a notable absentee from the Shangri La Dialogue, organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), was Burma’s deputy defence minister, who pulled out after news broke of Burma’s nuclear ambitions. North Korea, the Burmese junta’s alleged allies in their quest for nuclear weapons, also stayed away from the event.

Meanwhile, Burmese prime minister Thein Sein attended the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Ho Chi Minh City on 6 and 7 June along with other Asian country leaders.

Thein Sein told the audience that “the Union of Myanmar [Burma], as one of the Asian countries, was participating enthusiastically in activities by regional organisations.

“[Burma] is cordially cooperating with other countries in regional development projects and programmes, and the world’s issues. Unity in the Asia region is the most important factor for Asia to reclaim its leading role [in] international matters.”

The forum, which held the slogan ‘Rethinking Asia’s Leadership Agenda’, was attended by about 450 participants, including international representatives and business leaders.

He added the East Asia region will steadfastly grow in the coming years and will remain in the leading role for global economic development.

Accompanying Thein Sein in his delegation was foreign affairs minister Nyan Win and planning and development minister, Soe Thar.

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