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Myanmar says will not take sides in maritime dispute

Myanmar's Information Minister Ye Htut has said Myanmar as ASEAN Chair will not take sides in any maritime dispute the bloc's members have with China, as the group's foreign ministers gathered in Nay Pyi Taw for their annual meeting.

NAY PYI TAW: Myanmar's Information Minister Ye Htut has said Myanmar as ASEAN Chair will not take sides in any maritime dispute the bloc's members have with China. The grouping's foreign ministers are in Nay Pyi Taw for their annual meeting, as tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea are brewing.

Myanmar has been quick to emphasise a peaceful resolution to any conflict, with President Thein Sein calling for ASEAN to promote a common spirit of peaceful co-existence, harmony and tolerance, in a challenging global environment. He said ASEAN must show its leadership and maintain centrality. This is especially important in this fast changing political and security environment.

Mr Thein Sein added that to ensure peace and stability, ASEAN must promote a common spirit of peaceful co-existence within the regional bloc. He said: "The current developments in the world are causing serious concern to us. ASEAN should strengthen the ASEAN-led regional architecture. ASEAN should move forward its policy of non-alignment, pro-activeness, resort to peaceful settlement of disputes and differences."

At this critical juncture of establishing an interconnected ASEAN, the president on Friday (Aug 8) outlined three priorities:

- To successfully form an ASEAN community;
- To ensure that ASEAN is able to perform more effectively and efficiently; and
- To ensure that ASEAN can actually respond to realities and changing circumstances in the region and the world.

The ASEAN meetings will start to pick up steam on Saturday as the group meets with its dialogue partners such as the United States, China and Japan. Sensitive and challenging issues such as the South China Sea disputes will likely be tabled for discussion. 

Myanmar is hosting the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting (AMM) and 21st ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) from Aug 8 to 10.