Bandar Seri Begawan - Mutual understanding and goodwill between Asean 2013 Chair, Brunei Darussalam and China serves as a key driver in a successful year for Asean, which could help reduce tensions between China and a number of Asean member states over territorial claims in the South China Sea, said an invited speaker at a public lecture in Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) yesterday.
Cambodia's tenure as Asean host last year has been marred by rising friction between Southeast Asian nations Brunei, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia with China over the disputes which has resulted in a failed joint communiqué during an Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh last July
The speaker, Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, Head of Southeast Asia International Affairs Programmes LSE Ideas, Former Chairman of Malaysian Airlines and Chairman of Bank Muamalat Malaysia, in his lecture entitled "Southeast Asia between China and the United States" said given the economic achievement and potential of the region, there is a great "value-at-risk" posed if issues are not addressed and managed.
Recently, Southeast Asian states have found themselves in a more precarious situation, informed largely by incidents and actions with respect to territorial disputes. This has impacted relations between those countries, but the United States (US) as a dialogue partner remains formally non-aligned by not siding with any party.
He said Asean's growing economy is fast becominga focal point and is critical especially for the US and People's Republic of China. "Asean as a unit continues to be among the world's fastest growing economies, where it is ranked the 10th strongest economy, with a population of about 600 million and an economic growth of five per cent annually."
This growth, he said, gives a unique scenario for relations between Southeast Asian countries, the US and China, where as the Asean Chair this year, Brunei plays an integral role in strengthening bonds and cooperation of Asean with these two powers.
He noted that the recent development in the relationship between both sides was a tough test for Southeast Asian diplomacy. In ensuring a bright future for the region and to continue to enjoy rapid development, he said it is also vital to not make or take any action that will jeopardise the good relations.
He also stressed the importance of Brunei as the Asean Chair to take note of the recent progress of developments and issues that needs to be addressed, although he is pessimistic of an immediate resolution. "We can't expect much and there is not likely any solution on sovereignty, but Asean and China should be engaged and committed to the Code of Conduct," he added.
Also present at the Public Lecture held at UBD's The Core building were the Permanent Secretary (Media and Cabinet) at the Prime Minister's Office, Awg Hj Mahrub bin Hj Mumi; US Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, Mr Daniel Shields; government officials, lecturers and students of UBD as well as members of the public.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin