By The Nation
The regional grouping’s foreign ministers are scheduled to hold meetings among themselves as well as with their counterparts from other countries, such as Australia, China, India, Russia and European Union from July 29 to August 3.
Asean adopted its “Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific” at a summit last month as a guideline for the grouping to deal with outsiders amid changes in global geo-politics, at a time when super powers like the US and China are competing to build their influence in the region.
The 10-member regional grouping views the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, not as contiguous territorial spaces, but as closely integrated and interconnected regions with the Asean playing a central and strategic role.
Now that the paper on the Asean outlook is on the table, the Asean is ready to discuss with its global partners ways of linking, connecting and cooperating, a senior official at the Thai Foreign Ministry said.
As Asean chair, Thailand will host and facilitate talks with partners on several issues, including the Rakhine crisis, as well as the contentious issues related to the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula, the official said.
While Thailand as chair will highlight connectivity and sustainability in all aspects of discussion and cooperation, it will also try to accommodate all relevant issues in the Asean meeting next week, he said.
This move is a recognition of Asean’s “convening power” and a reflection of the grouping’s centrality as it is bringing the major powerhouses of the world together to discuss all issues of concern, the official said.
Apart from the 10 Asean foreign ministers, key officials from dialogue partners who will also be attending the meeting include US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.
Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai will chair most of the 27 meetings with his counterparts, and will also hold sessions on the sidelines with many of them including Pompeo.
Foreign ministers from Mekong countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, will also hold meetings on the sidelines to discuss the development of the Mekong region under many frameworks of cooperation, including talks with the US about the Lower Mekong Initiative, with India on the Mekong-Ganges Cooperation, with South Korea on Mekong-Republic of Korea and with Japan on Mekong-Japan Cooperation.