Myanmar, South China Sea tensions top agenda at ASEAN meeting in Indonesia

Foreign ministers of ASEAN will gather in Indonesia on Tuesday. (file)


Southeast Asia’s top diplomats will gather in Indonesia on Tuesday amid pressure to resolve a bloody political crisis in Myanmar and resolve tensions in the South China Sea, where some ASEAN members have overlapping territorial claims with China.

The meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) comes at a time when doubts have grown over the credibility and unity of the grouping in tackling the region’s toughest challenges.

Chief among them is the lack of meaningful process on the ASEAN peace plan for Myanmar, which was agreed upon with the country’s military rulers after they seized power in a 2021 coup and called for an immediate end to violence.

According to a UN report published in June, more than 3,400 people have been killed and nearly 22,000 arrested in the army’s crackdown on dissent.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk recently urged the UN Security Council to refer the growing violence to the International Criminal Court and urged countries to stop supplying arms to the junta.

ASEAN has barred Myanmar’s junta leaders from attending high-level meetings in Jakarta this week, but as the bloc’s chair this year, Indonesia has been negotiating behind the scenes with the junta and opposition groups. .

But two sources familiar with the efforts say efforts to build an inclusive dialogue have been complicated by conditions placed by all sides to start informal talks.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said of the efforts last week, “As long as the approach of the parties is a zero-sum approach, durable peace will never be achieved.”

Indonesia is also seeking to speed up talks on the long-stalled code of conduct on the South China Sea during this week’s forum. The talks will build on a 2002 commitment by the bloc and China to create a set of rules to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in strategic waterways.

More than $3 trillion in trade passes through the South China Sea each year, and overlapping territorial claims by China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have led to conflicts.

ASEAN will also hold the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum later this week, which will be attended by both US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV Staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)