ASEAN Remains One of the Leading Players in the Asia-Pacific Region

Meetings in Manila were focused on the Korean Peninsula

A number of important events: the 50th meeting of the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN, Postministerial meeting, the 7th meeting of Foreign Ministers of the East Asia Summit and the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum on security country members finished in the Philippines on August 8. These events have become a major independent platform for discussion of important regional and international issues.

All the participants focused their attention on the Korean Peninsula. After the forum in Manila it has become evident that regional players have different viewpoints on the solution of this problem. The majority of states expressed support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Moreover, a number of regional players proposed to solve the problem through a diplomatic dialogue, while others considered as the most effective mechanism of pressure on Pyongyang is isolation of North Korea. In particular, in May 2017 during the talks with the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN countries Secretary of State R. Tillerson insisted on the lowering of South-East Asia level of diplomatic relations with the DPRK. And on the eve of the August meetings, the United States also urged the Association to be tough and to deny the North Korean delegation to participate in these important current events. But ASEAN, widely known by its pragmatism and desire to play an independent role in the region, didn’t support the methods proposed by Washington. Thus, the countries of the Association confirmed the ability to defend their own position on an important issue.

Approval of the code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea (COC) was an expected and significant event for many people during the Manila meetings. The discussion about the COC was conducted for about 15 years and constantly failed due to insurmountable differences between the parties. Meanwhile, this event indicates positive developments in resolving the territorial dispute. Currently, the framework document submitted for approval to the leaders of ASEAN countries. China once again stressed that the issue of South China Sea should be resolved only through a dialogue. Certainly, the Beijing’s opinion was heard by all meeting participants of Manila meetings, as Beijing has been ASEAN trading partner number 1 for 8 years already.

However, due to the deterioration of the internal situation in the Philippines, the ASEAN states could not discuss the terrorist threat in Southeast Asia. Despite the fact that there are no signs of establishment of the second global front against terrorism in the region, local terrorist groups pose a serious threat that goes beyond the regional framework. An additional concern is their relationship with the IS (banned in Russia).

Manila Ministerial meetings also can't be called ordinary regional events. This confirms the enhanced agenda of most bilateral and multilateral meetings, which provided an opportunity for political opponents to get to know each other much better.

The result of the recent Manila meetings indicates the main themes which will be discussed at the upcoming October meetings of Defense Ministers and the November ASEAN Summit.

Manila ASEAN