I chaired the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat today in Boracay. The Retreat is the first gathering of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers under the Philippines’ ASEAN Chairmanship in 2017 with the theme, “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World.”
During the Retreat, the Ministers discussed the way forward for ASEAN Community building, including the implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, especially the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint, and strengthening of ASEAN’s external relations and maintaining ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture.
The Ministers discussed the six priorities of ASEAN for 2017, namely, (1) People-oriented and people-centred ASEAN, (2) peace and stability in the region, (3) maritime security and cooperation, (4) inclusive, innovation-led growth, (5) ASEAN’s resiliency, and (6) ASEAN: a model of regionalism, a global player.
The Ministers looked forward to the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN this year, commemorating five decades of cooperation and Community-building in ASEAN and emphasised the importance of continuing to promote initiatives that directly benefit the people of ASEAN, including the need to redouble efforts to increase intra-regional trade and further strengthen mechanisms for extending consular assistance to ASEAN nationals consistent with ASEAN’s goal for deeper regional integration, and the usefulness of tapping ASEAN think tanks to assist in charting the future direction of ASEAN.
The Ministers exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest and concern and discussed ways of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond. These issues include non-traditional security challenges such as terrorism, piracy and armed robbery at sea, cybersecurity, natural disasters, climate change, irregular migration, trafficking in persons and illicit drugs, maritime security and cooperation, and developments in various regions, including the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea, among others, as well as sustainable development.
The Ministers agreed on the need to maintain ASEAN centrality and unity, including having a credible, collective and cohesive ASEAN response in addressing domestic and regional challenges.
Recalling the 14 February 2017 Statement of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the Ballistic Missile Launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), ASEAN expressed its grave concern over this development and urged the DPRK to comply with relevant UNSC resolutions in the interest of maintaining regional peace, security and stability.
On the South China Sea, a number of Ministers expressed concern over recent developments and escalation of activities in the area which may further raise tensions and erode trust and confidence in the region. At the same time, they noted the need to sustain the momentum of dialogue in order to ease tensions in the region. They reaffirmed the importance of the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence, exercising self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoiding actions that may further complicate the situation, and pursuing peaceful resolution of disputes, including through full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS. The Ministers underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in its entirety, and efforts within the ASEAN-China process to complete a framework of the Code of Conduct (COC), in order to facilitate the early adoption of the COC.