The Straits Times 16 June 2008
Singapore and ASEAN Clarify Response to Australian Idea for Asia Pacific Union
SINGAPORE'S Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday issued a statement in response to press reports that ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan has welcomed Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's plan for an Asia-Pacific Community.
'This is not ASEAN's position. The ASEAN foreign ministers have not discussed the matter. The Secretary-General must have only been expressing a personal opinion. We understand that the ASEAN Secretary-General has since clarified his position and asked for more details about Australia's proposal. We also note that the Secretary-General had reminded Prime Minister Rudd that ASEAN has been playing a central role in East Asia's community building efforts,' an MFA spokesman said.
On Friday, reports quoted Dr Surin as welcoming Mr Rudd's proposal for an Asia-Pacific Community. 'We welcome your new vision. We want to know more about it. We want to help you construct that community of a wider expanse with existing institutions serving as its foundation,' Dr Surin was reported by AFP as saying at a joint press conference with Mr Rudd, who was visiting the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.
In a statement issued later, ASEAN said Dr Surin reminded Mr Rudd that ASEAN has been playing a central role in the evolution of community-building efforts in East Asia.
In a speech in Sydney recently, Mr Rudd called for the creation of a new framework of cooperation to cover the Asia-Pacific region that would include the United States, China, Japan and India.
When asked for Singapore's position, the MFA spokesman yesterday said: 'Singapore, like all ASEAN countries, is committed to the principle that ASEAN should be at the centre of any regional architecture. All ASEAN dialogue partners have supported this principle. Prime Minister Rudd's proposal appears to be a departure from Australia's previous position.'