Ladies and Gentlemen,
- I would like to extend my warm welcome on behalf of my ASEAN colleagues. To all of you here participating in the Post Ministerial Conference which is sometimes referred to as 9 + 10 Meeting. I would especially like to welcome those Heads of Delegation participating in this PMC Meetings for the first time. They are H.E. Chidambaram, Finance Minister of India H.E. Yoo Chong-Ha, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the ROK: H.E Jacques Poos, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg and H.E. Madeleine K. Albright, the Secretary of State of the United States, On the ASEAN side, the Foreign Ministers of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand are also participating for the first time. Malaysia had indeed made preparations for a 10+10 Meeting. But as we are all aware, the PMC this time has to be restricted to 9+10 only.
- Indeed the Post Ministerial Conferences have developed into a useful and significant forum for frank exchanges of views. It behoves me to commend the singular interest demonstrated by the Dialogue Partners towards the PMC process throughout the years, Fears have been expressed by some that the PMC process is in danger of being subsumed into the ARF process. I do not share this view. There is a distinction between the issues covered under the PMC d those discussed in the ARF. While ARF deals with the politico-security issues of the region, the PMC covers those subjects which are inter-regional in nature or those with wider global dimensions.
- On the regional front, the situation in Cambodia continues to demand our attention. We have had an extensive discussion on this issue during the 4th ARF which had just completed yesterday. I would add, nonetheless, that Cambodia should be given time and support to resolve its problems. There is one reality however. A durable and enduring solution to the complex Cambodian situation must include a Heavy percentage of local content. In other words, the Cambodians themselves cannot avoid taking the necessary steps to solve their problems which are basically home grown.
- As ASEAN celebrates its 30th anniversary, we are also aware that durable peace and enduring stability in the region can only be achieved within an environment of a united, thriving community of all Southeast Asian nations. The admission of Laos and Mynmar into ASEAN has further consolidated Southeast Asia as a cohesive regional community as it enters the 21st century.
- The success of ASEAN over the last three decades in bringing the member countries closer together has strengthened my belief that mutual understanding and dialogue is the key to peace and stability in the region. Guided by the, principles enshrined in the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Co operation in Soutlieast Asia, ASF.AN has become ci piatforill for economic growth and the foundation for regional stability. The ASEAN Regional Forum, the avenue for security dialogue established by ASEAN some four years ago, has further helped to encourage the habit of consultation and co operation in the area of security for the Asia Pacific region.
- On the economic front, it is indeed troubling that the ASEAN economics; continue bedeviled by currency fluctuations caused by hostile elements. bent on such unholy actions. It is really the height of international criminality that. the fate of millions could be subject to the in mercy of a few unscrupulous traders. We, in ASEAN have resolved to intensify actions to take counter measures. It is time that we recognise. These actions for what they really are, namely villainous acts of sabotage.
- Regional co operation will continue to be an important vehicle for growth for countries in Southeast Asia. The ASIAN-Mekong Basin Development Co operation (AMBDC), a regional initiative will create the foundations to realise the economic potentials of the riparian states of the great river Mekong as well the countries in Southeast Asia and other regional countries. The Cold War had isolated these riparian states from the rest of Southeast Asia. The lands and the peoples surrounding the other great livers of the world have been neglected and left to themselves. The opportunities presented to AMBDC are immense both in terms of size as well as resources and must not be allowed to pass.
- These series of PMC dialogue continue to be an important event in ASEAN’s external relations. It has provided ASEAN with opportunities to promote its interest and engage in exchange of views with the participation of major players in the region as we as those outside the region. As we move into the 21th century, ASEAN’s solidarity will be tested with new and more difficult. Issues. Some of the old issues could resurface in new forms. The rapid growth of information technology adds a another dimension to the challenges faced by developing countries like those in ASEAN. To remain viable, the PMC must keep up the these new demands while continuing to discuss such traditional issues as drug-trafficking, environmental degradation and terrorism.
- The ASEAN market now consists of nine countries with a combined population of about that 500 million people. With the current rate of economic expansion, ASEAN’s combined gross domestic product of US$ 600 billion is expected to exceed US$ 1 trillion in the next decade. This could indeed be achieved provided ASEAN maintains political stability and continue to receive support from outside such as from its Dialogue Partners present at this meeting. The PMC process will continue to be , an important forum as long as we are committed to make it such. The value of PMC is that it has the potential to continue to be a dialogue of significant proportions. The choice is really in our hands.
- For this year, it has been agreed that we will deliberate over four broad areas namely ASEAN Regional Cooperation, International Political Issues, International Economic Issues and the Global Issues. Under these broad headings, I believe we will have very fruitful exchange of views. Once again, I wish to bid all delegates a warm welcome to Malaysia. It is a great pleasure and an honour for me personally to play host the PMC for the second time.