VIENTIANE: ASEAN member states are looking to strengthen efforts to realise their vision of a dynamic ASEAN community, even as South-east Asia's foreign ministers gather in the capital of Laos for a two-day retreat starting Friday (Feb 26).
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat is the first in a series of meetings that Laos will host as Chair of ASEAN this year. It is also the first ASEAN ministerial-level meeting to be held since the establishment of the ASEAN Community on Dec 31, 2015.
During the retreat at Vientiane’s Don Chan Palace hotel, foreign ministers are expected to discuss ways to effectively implement the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, adopted at the 27th ASEAN Summit in November last year. This includes maintaining a peaceful and stable ASEAN region, with a highly integrated regional economy and enhanced connectivity.
SOUTH CHINA SEA, CYBERSECURITY LIKELY DISCUSSION TOPICS
Laos Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has said that ASEAN community-building is an on-going process that will evolve over the years. He also said some areas that Laos would like to focus on include facilitating trade and tourism. Laos is also hoping to promote effective cooperation between ASEAN and external partners.
"The year 2016 is a deeply meaningful year, since it is the starting point of the ASEAN community and the implementation of the ASEAN community Vision 2025 and the blueprints. We are mindful of the challenges and the opportunities ahead of us," Mr Sisoulith said.
One issue that has been widely tipped to be discussed during the retreat, is the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Philippines, for example, is looking to push for an early conclusion of a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea between China and ASEAN.
Singapore - as country coordinator for ASEAN-China dialogue relations - is likely to discuss ways to better engage China. It is understood that Singapore will also touch on issues concerning cybersecurity and counter-terrorism efforts during the retreat.
Ahead of the retreat's welcome dinner this evening, Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had separate meetings with Mr Sisoulith and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong.