SINGAPORE: Amid the anti-globalisation tide seen in places such as the US and Europe, ASEAN remains even more relevant, said Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
ASEAN remains a bright spot, being an organisation that leans towards an open, rules-based order, Dr Balakrishnan said at the Societal Leadership Summit 2017 held at the Singapore Management University on Friday (Oct 6).
However, the regional bloc has faced criticisms, and there are challenges that remain unresolved.
These include ongoing disputes in the South China Sea, where China and some ASEAN member states lay claim to territory. The minister said it is a complex issue that cannot be solved in a hurry, but noted that progress has been made.
Dr Balakrishnan pointed to confidence-building measures that ASEAN members have engaged in, and the framework for a Code of Conduct that has been pursued.
“It is, and it will always be, a difficult and challenging situation in order to achieve a common position and common cause. But the point here is that ASEAN, as a whole, have a common interest in maintaining peace and stability, freedom of navigation and overflight, and in upholding a system of international law,” he said.
Another complex issue is the Rakhine crisis in Myanmar, where reports have emerged that the Rohingya minority has faced persecution. He said that there are no quick-fix solutions, and differing perspectives on the situation exist among ASEAN member states.
Dr Balakrishnan noted members have agreed that there is a need for violence to stop, to make sure that aid reaches the people in Rakhine, and for a viable solution to address the root of the problem to be found.