North Korea, Myanmar to dominate Asia’s main security dialogue, inflation also on agenda

The Associated Press , Singapore | Sun, 07/20/2008 3:51 PM | World

Asia’s annual security dialogue with the United States and Europe kicks off Sunday, weighed down by the recalcitrant regimes in North Korea and Myanmar, as well as spiraling food prices and disaster management.

A bubbling border confrontation between Cambodia and Thailand is the latest in a long list of security concerns facing Asian foreign ministers as they get together for the region’s premier
conference.

It begins Sunday with a working dinner of foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. They will hold a series of meetings with counterparts from neighboring
countries, culminating in the main event Thursday, known as the ASEAN Regional Forum. The ARF comprises ASEAN and 16 countries plus the European Union.

In between will be the most keenly watched event on the sidelines of the conference: a meeting of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun and their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, who are taking part in the six-party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

It will be the highest level of contact between the six countries since 2003 when negotiations began to get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for political and economic incentives.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he does not expect Rice and Pak to meet bilaterally, but expects “there will be an informal ministerial level meeting of the six-party ministers.”

He said the meeting is not expected to yield “specific outcomes.”

The optimism over North Korea notwithstanding, the forum is clearly worried about the security situation in the region.

“Despite the ARF’s best efforts … security threat and challenges that could undermine the peace, security and stability of the region still exist,” said a draft of the statement that will be issued at the end of the meeting. The draft was obtained by The Associated Press.

The challenges are highlighted by a dispute that has flared up between Thailand and Cambodia. Both countries have reinforced their troops along a disputed border area. Also on the agenda will be the behavior of Myanmar’s junta, which has done little to allow democracy and has refused to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

ASEAN has been criticized for doing little to force Myanmar, a fellow member, to change its ways, but was hailed for persuading the junta to accept international aid and relief workers after a devastating cyclone in May.

Host Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo said ASEAN deserves a “C” grading for its performance in Myanmar. But ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan was more optimistic.

“I think probably a B-plus for me,” he told reporters. “I’m not challenging him (Yeo), but I think he’s being very cautious.”

Disaster relief and management will be another main topic of discussion in the wake of the Myanmar cyclone, the May earthquake in China and a recent ferry sinking in the Philippines.

The participants are expected this week to pledge to intensify cooperation on disaster relief and management. Among the steps being discussed is the setting up of an interim ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Security for Asia is not only in terms of traditional military conflicts but also the “growing challenge posed by rising oil and food prices,” said a draft statement of a separate ASEAN declaration.

The problems “pose a serious challenge to our peoples’ welfare as well as our countries’ continued economic development,” said the draft.(**)

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2 Comments

  1. That’s topic needs people to be concerned by all people in the region……good luck

    john

  2. Life is rated X. It is not rated R.Ice-TIce-T


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