The ASEAN Regional Forum is set to begin in Bali next week, with a set of regional security issues on the table for discussion.
The border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand is expected to be discussed, and as the host and a third party, it is anticipated that Indonesia will take a role as mediator. Other potential issues for discussion include the Korean Peninsula conflict and the dispute in the South China Sea.
Recent violent outbreaks have claimed 23 lives along the Thai-Cambodian border, and bilateral negotiations have largely stalled since a few weeks prior to the Thai elections. The turmoil has made it difficult for progress to be made on the issue, and indeed the Thai foreign minister is not expected to attend the meetings in Bali, as the newly-elected Pheu Thai government has not yet appointed a Foreign Minister.
Still, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that he does not expect any resolution to many of these issues at the talks. No resolution to the border dispute can take place without adequate representation from one of the two parties, but Natalegawa said that the talks can still be productive as a venue to express perspectives and share current positions on these issues.
As far as security issues on the Korean Peninsula, Natalegawa does not expect that there to be much discussion, in order “to avoid any misunderstandings,” even though representatives from all of the nations that have participated in the six-party talks (China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and the US) will be present.
Report & Analysis: RI to play role in diffusing security rows [Jakarta Post, 15 Jul 2011]
On the South China Sea disputes, according to ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN will not “interfere” but will “provide the forum, where issues on the South China Sea can be discussed openly and candidly.”
Pitsuwan advocated greater regional interaction and engagement by the citizens of South-east Asian nations, in addition to their governments and leaders, as to entrench ASEAN as a truly important regional institution.
Report & Analysis: ASEAN regional forum in Bali to take up Spratlys row [Inquirer Mindanao, 14 Jul 2011]
The ASEAN Regional Forum is comprised of the ten nations that make up the Association of South East Asian Nations, as well as the United States, China, Japan, North and South Korea, India, Australia, and Russia, among a few others.
Report: N Korea foreign minister, Clinton to attend meet in Bali [Reuters, 14 Jul 2011]
Meanwhile, ASEAN nations participated in their first ever disaster relief military cooperation, in the form of the ASEAN Militaries’ Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Table-Top Exercise. The exercise was held near West Java, Indonesia, and was co-hosted by Singapore and Indonesia. Participants attended workshops, evacuation simulations, and relief drills, in accordance with the standard operating procedure as outlined by the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Responses. The exercises were designed to promote inter-operability and preparedness among the ASEAN militaries.
Report & Analysis: ASEAN militaries conduct exercise on humanitarian, disaster relief[Channel News Asia, 14 Jul 2011