Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi on Tuesday called on fellow ASEAN member states to work together to further safeguard their collective home in Southeast Asia following a year of distrust among neighbours.
In a speech commemorating ASEAN’s 49th anniversary on Monday, the Jakarta Post quoted Marsudi, as saying the time was right for member states to reflect on key challenges ahead of the bloc’s golden jubilee next year and overcome them together.
“For 49 years we have nurtured a strong and mutually beneficial bond. Together we have built peace and stability, strengthened solidarity and unity. With peace dividends as the foundation, we grow and prosper,” Retno said.
She noted that in almost five decades together as a regional organization, ASEAN had become the world’s seventh largest economy, having reached a combined gross domestic product of USD 2.5 trillion with a potential market of over 600 million people, rivaling that of the European Union or North America.
“Let us not stop there, for we have much to do and much more to achieve,” the minister said, only hinting at the recent turmoil the bloc has had to face.
“ASEAN as our home” has been adopted as the unofficial slogan by the region’s leaders following the latest developments in the South China Sea, where a number of ASEAN member states have competing claims in the area with China.
In the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, earlier this month, ASEAN foreign ministers issued a joint communique, dismissing previous concerns that ASEAN might disintegrate under external pressure from parties with vested interests in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The meeting followed the July 12 ruling at The Hague, which ruled China’s claims in the South China Sea “baseless”.
The communique urged the adoption of a joint statement on the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea in the South China Sea” at the ASEAN-China Commemorative Summit scheduled for September 7 in Vientiane.
However, critics say the bloc needs to reassure the wider public of its benefits in general, as many ordinary people have begun to question the necessity of ASEAN.
ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh acknowledged the slow progress of the bloc’s community-building efforts, but insisted they had been “all-encompassing”. By Ani, 16 August 2016
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