Mr. Chairman,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by expressing, also on behalf of my delegation, my deep appreciation to His Excellency Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for the wise counsel he shared with us in his inaugural speech. I should also like to convey our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Singapore for the hospitality lavished on us and the excellent arrangements made for our meeting.

To you, Mr. Chairman, I extend heartfelt congratulations on your election to chair this Meeting. The admirable way in which you have guided the work of ASEAN during the past year fills me with confidence that you will lead our present deliberations to a successful conclusion.

May I seize this opportunity to welcome His Excellency Hor Namhong, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia who is attending our Meeting for the first time as a full member. I am also pleased to welcome our distinguished Colleague from Papua New Guinea as Special Observer.

Mr. Chairman,

Since our ASEAN Leaders held their Sixth Summit Meeting in Hanoi last December we have made substantial progress in carrying out the Hanoi Plan of Action.

We have formalized the entry of Cambodia into the ASEAN family, and thus we have become the long-envisioned concert of Southeast Asian nations bound together in friendship and cooperation. As ASEAN-10 we are now called upon to make the joint efforts and sacrifices to secure for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.

We have formed an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Vision 2020 to contribute fresh insights and innovative approaches that may speed up the implementation of the Hanoi Plan of Action and the achievement of Vision 2020.

The assiduous spade work of our Senior Officials has made it possible for us to inaugurate the SEANWFZ Commission tomorrow. We can therefore took forward to the concrete implementation of the SEANNWZ Treaty, while involving the IAEA, as appropriate, in the technical aspects of that vital work. At the same time, let us continue to vigorously pursue our consultations with the Nuclear Power States so that they could eventually accede to the Treaty’s protocol.

We also urge non-regional states, particularly our Dialogue Partners, to accede to the Second Protocol to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). Among the regional states, the TAC has served in good stead the cause of peace and cooperation. In concert with our Dialogue Partners, especially the major powers, we can make the TAC an even more effective contribution to global stability and progress. We also hope that the drawing up of the rules of procedure for the High Council will be completed soon.

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) must continue to be the key forum for dialogue and cooperation on issues of common security. However, in order to ensure its continuing relevance and its ability to respond to the challenges posed by the rapidly changing political and security environment in the region, the ARF must move its deliberations and activities substantively forward. It is in this context that Indonesia welcomes the forthcoming discussion on the concept and principles of Preventive Diplomacy. We should also consider directing the ASEAN Secretary-General to provide the necessary support and services to the ASC Chairman in coordinating ARF activities.

One urgent concern facing the Forum is the recent heightening of tensions in the South China Sea. This attests to the need for self-restraint by all sides and firm commitment to the peaceful settlement of the disputes on overlapping sovereignty and jurisdictional claims, based on the recognized principles of international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is also an obvious need to intensify confidence-building efforts in the area. The cooperative projects for South China Sea countries, developed by the Workshop process on Managing Potential Conflict in the South China Sea, were meant to serve this purpose. It would indeed be timely now to put some of these projects on stream.

In the economic sphere, considering the positive trends in the region today, it is tempting to pronounce that we have overcome the crisis, that the poignantly awaited recovery has begun. I shall resist that temptation and say only that these positive trends arc real and their message is that we should continue doing whatever we are doing right.

We have done right to help one another and to cooperate with our Dialogue Partners and international institutions in making prudent use of the resources they have provided, We have been well-advised to accelerate our efforts to become a joint market and investment area and to institute bold measures to attract investments. We have been carrying out a judicious social safety net programme that has spared our peoples from much of the harsh impact of the crisis. Toward the same end, we have made the ASEAN Foundation operational. We have been working together to protect our environment and preserve our regional heritage. Most important, we have made a determined effort to earn the confidence of our partners and our own peoples in the capacity of our governments to render service and governance.

What remains for us to do now is to increase our capability to carry out such constructive endeavours. I am therefore greatly pleased with the success of the ASEAN Development Cooperation Forum (ADCF), which presented in detail the requirements of the Hanoi Plan of Action in terms of activities and projects as well as the role and place of our Dialogue Partners and cooperating institutions in the implementation of that Plan. I am confident that the interest generated by the Forum will lead to the mobilization of more resources for development in the region.

It is also propitious that we have taken steps to fine-tune the structure and workings of the ASEAN Secretariat by making it focus on its role as coordinator of the substantive work of our Association.

We should continue to nurture and enhance the resources and assets of our region. In the ultimate analysis, the greatest asset of the ASEAN region is its population of half a billion, each with a contribution to make. The technical and managerial skills, the social discipline and personal virtues of the Southeast Asian remain the chief instruments for progress in our common endeavours. That is what the signers of the ASEAN-Declaration of 1967 had in mind when they gave that founding document a strong orientation to human resources development. In a very real sense, all ASEAN documents, including the Hanoi Plan of Action and ASEAN Vision 2020, are statements of faith in the potential of the Southeast Asian.

We must therefore exhaust all means to enhance the quality of our human resources and keep faith in the perfectibility of our peoples.