The 31st Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and related meetings began here on Monday, with leaders of 10 member-nations and dialogue partners convening to discuss security, cooperation and regional integration.
The Philippines, Asean’s rotating chair for 2017, set the theme of “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”, putting security and regional integrity high on the agenda, reports Xinhua news agency.
At the opening ceremony, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said that the next two days will present excellent opportunities for Asean leaders and their dialogue partners to engage in meaningful discussions on matters of regional and intentional importance.
“Terrorism and violent extremism endanger the peace, stability and security of our region because these threats know no boundaries,” he said, adding that piracy and armed robbery on the seas also put a dent on growth and disrupt the stability of both regional and global commerce.
The non-traditional security issues are challenging “the prosperity of regional economies, the integrity of our institutions, and more importantly the safety of Asean people”, Duterte said.
On regional cooperation, Duterte said it “has been a pleasure to work with our Asean family and the dialogue partners in moving the Asean community forward in enhancing cooperation in various areas”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also attended the opening ceremony.
Related meetings scheduled for Monday and Tuesday include the Asean+1 summits, Asean+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) Summit and the East Asia Summit.
Asean countries and more than 10 dialogue partners, including international organisations such as the European Union (EU) and the UN, will discuss issues of common concern.
Leaders of 10 Asean countries and six of its dialogue partners, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, will meet for their first Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) leaders’ meeting on Tuesday, the first such meeting after related negotiations started in 2012.
Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh will attend the meeting.
At the closing ceremony of the Asean summit and related summits on Tuesday, Duterte will hand over the chairmanship of Asean to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, the incoming chair for 2018.
Established in 1967, Asean, which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The Asean Community, with the Political-Security Community, the Economic Community and the Socio-Cultural Community as three pillars, was established at the end of 2015.