ASEAN foreign ministers meet to discuss 2023 strategy

Jakarta, Feb 3 (EFE).- The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to meet Friday and Saturday in Jakarta to plan their strategy for 2023 and address issues like the political crisis in Myanmar, the China-US rivalry and economy.

The foreign ministry of Indonesia, the country set to chair ASEAN in 2023, said in a statement released Thursday that the meeting will help highlight the bloc’s priorities under the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”.

“Indonesia will promote stronger ASEAN cooperation in responding to various regional and global challenges such as geopolitical rivalries, the continuous impact of the pandemic and natural disasters, financial crises, energy crises, and food crises,” the statement read.

Bloc member Myanmar, where Feb 1 marked two years of the military coup, poses one of the most pressing challenges in the region due to the regime’s torture and killings of civilians, imprisonment of opponents and dissenters, and the worsening military conflict.

Representatives of Myanmar’s military junta have been banned from ASEAN’s important summits and meetings due to the government’s lack of will to put an end to violence and initiate dialog in the nation.

Even as Russia and China provide arms to the junta, the crisis in Myanmar has given rise to a humanitarian crisis with more than 1.5 million displaced citizens and thousands of refugees who are sometimes denied entry by neighboring countries like Thailand.

Moreover, ASEAN is right in the middle of the China-US rivalry in the region, trying to maintain a balance between the two powers, even though some countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar are closer to China.

Chinese authorities are involved in a territorial conflict with some ASEAN countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei in the South China Sea, an important maritime region that houses fishing grounds and oil and gas deposits.

The recent reopening of China after nearly two years of stringent restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic has brought a significant increase in tourism originating in the Asian giant, which is boosting the sector in countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.

Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN could affect the bloc’s policy regarding the war in Ukraine triggered by the Russian invasion in Feb 2022.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo traveled to Ukraine and Russia in 2022, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in order to try and promote a dialogue, although his efforts were unsuccessful.

ASEAN, founded in 1967, comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. EFE


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