Wednesday, September 22, 2010

US-ASEAN meeting in New York

By Cheang Sokha (The Phnom Penh Post)

PRIME Minister Hun Sen left Cambodia yesterday to attend the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in New York, where regional security, economic cooperation and the upcoming elections in Myanmar are expected to top the agenda.

Sri Thamrong, a government adviser who is part of the Cambodian delegation to the US, said yesterday that US President Barack Obama and heads of state from ASEAN’s 10 member nations would use the meeting to discuss a wide range of issues.

“The leaders of ASEAN and the US will look into the issues of economic, climate change, natural disasters, power security, food security, counterterrorism and other regional issues,” he told reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday.

According to a draft copy of a joint statement set to be issued at meeting Friday, the US and ASEAN leaders plan to make pledges for “further enhance economic cooperation” with the aim of sustaining the recovery from the global economic downturn, and boosting job creation in each country. It noted that two-way trade between the US and the Southeast Asian bloc reached US$84 billion in the first six months of the year, up 28 percent over the same period last year.

The draft also addressed a series of regional flashpoints, including the situation in Myanmar, which is set to hold long-awaited but controversial elections on November 7. It stated that ASEAN welcomed the “continued US engagement” with the government of Myanmar, expressing hope that it will encourage the country’s military junta to “undertake political and economic reforms”.

“We… underscored the importance of a free, fair, inclusive and transparent general election on 7 November 2010 to the long term stability and prosperity of Myanmar,” it stated. Myanmar’s elections have drawn strong criticism from critics of the junta, who claim they are a merely a fig leaf for continued military rule.

The draft weighed in on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, making a joint call for the North Korean government to honour previous agreements to “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes”. It also called for the “peaceful settlement of disputes in the region, including [the] South China Sea”, where island territories are claimed variously by China, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations.

On the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, the ASEAN-US draft statement reaffirmed the countries’ commitment to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, first established in 1995. The treaty, the draft stated, “contributes towards global nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation”.

It added, “We are committed to maintain the prevention of the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction and build a world free of their threat.”

In addition to these talks, Sri Thamrong said that Prime Minister Hun Sen will also take the opportunity to hold sideline talks with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. He did not go into detail about the likely content of the talks, but said it would focus on “various issues” to do with the two countries’ ongoing border dispute.

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