The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) celebrated its tenth anniversary with the decision to extend membership to 5 new members.
India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bulgaria and Romania are set to join ASEM. The ASEAN Secretariat will also be invited to join the dialogue process. Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen explained that “This enlargement means that ASEM will strengthen its position as a forum for Europe-Asia participation.”
Declaration calling for the redoubling of efforts to tackle global climate changes was adopted at the end of the Summit.
The ASEM meeting has also predictably condemned the lack of democratic progress in Myanmar. There were also discussions on the North Korean nuclear issue, climate change, need to restore WTO talks, inter-civilisational dialogues and other security issues such as anti-terrorism. The broad spectrum of issues for discussion could possibly have been a contributing factor in the lack of focus and substance to the discussions.
The bilateral meetings at the fringe of the official ASEM summit produced some exciting buzz. Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart had a four-eye meeting to discuss cooperation in Johor. Datuk Seri Abdullah spoke about how Singapore and Johor could become like Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and Mr Lee gave full support to this view.
Another most watched developments was whether there would be any meeting among the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea at ASEM. Although Koizumi had brief chats with both South Korea President Roh Moo-hyun and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, he did not hold summit-level meetings with both of them unlike in previous ASEM summits in 2002 and 2004. Both Beijing and Seoul have suspended high-level summits with Koizumi since late 2005 in protest over the latter’s repeated visits to Yasukuni shrine. Roh met with Wen Jiabao, expressing “regrets” over a Beijing-sponsored academic research that claimed part of South Korea as part of China.
The ASEAN+3 leaders held a meeting led by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Roh on Sunday morning though the agenda was not known. It is also unknown as to whether this ASEAN+3 meeting would continue after the inclusion of India, Pakistan and Mongolia or whether it would expand to include the three new members.
Asia, Europe Leaders Begin Summit, Call for 6-Way Talks on North Korea, Japan Economic Newswire, 11 September 2006
Indonesian President Leads Meeting of Asian Leaders in Helsinki, AsiaPulse, 11 September 2006
3rd Round-Up: EU Slams Myanmar on Human Rights, Democracy, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 10 September 2006
South Korean President Roh Expresses Regrets Over China History Project, BBC World Monitoring [Yonhap], 10 September 2006
Japan’s Koizumi Chats Briefly With Wen Jiabao, Roh Moo-Hyun at ASEM, BBC World Monitoring [Kyodo], 10 September 2006
EU, Asian leaders pledge climate change effort (STI, 12 September 2006)
PM Lee and Abdullah discuss Johor in talks (The Straits Times, 12 September 2006)