East Asia Summit a platform for tackling challenges together: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 11th East Asia Summit within the ASEAN Summits at the National Convention Center in Vientiane, Laos on Sept 8, 2016.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 11th East Asia Summit within the ASEAN Summits at the National Convention Center in Vientiane, Laos on Sept 8, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

Terrorism, North Korean provocations and the South China Sea are the top issues threatening the peace and security of the Asia-Pacific and East Asia Summit members should address them together, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said.

The security and territorial issues came into focus at the 11th East Asia Summit (EAS), an annual gathering of leaders from Asean and eight of its dialogue partners including the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, India and Australia. It was held after the Asean Summit, which ended yesterday.

Mr Lee said the region "has become a fertile breeding and recruiting ground for violent extremism", and urged leaders to work closely, keep up constant vigilance, and be prepared for a long-term fight.

Another cause for concern was North Korea's "deliberate and provocative" actions on the Korean Peninsula, said Mr Lee. On Monday, North Korea fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast in the direction of Japan while world leaders were gathered in China for a Group of 20 summit.

"Singapore remains deeply concerned by the series of deliberate and provocative actions by the DPRK, in defiance of calls by the international community to avoid such dangerous and destabilising actions," said Mr Lee, using the acronym for North Korea.

 

"Any disruption to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula will have far-reaching consequences for our region."

The South China Sea disputes should likewise be resolved peacefully, he said, adding that Singapore's position is "well-enunciated and unchanged".

He said it was good that the situation in the sea "has not escalated significantly in the last few months", and welcomed initial steps by China and the Philippines to resume dialogue on their dispute. China, Taiwan and four Asean states including the Philippines have rival claims in the vital waterway.

He noted that Asean and China's agreement on Wednesday to apply a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (Cues) and make hotline arrangements for maritime emergencies show that both sides want to take a constructive approach towards the issue.

Mr Lee said the EAS should be kept open, inclusive and robust, and called on members to work towards strengthening the forum, such as by preserving its Asean-centric nature. "All of us want a region with growth, peace and stability," he said. "EAS is the platform that allows us to cooperate and tackle our challenges together."

Asean also had summits with the US and India yesterday.

Mr Lee said at the Asean-India summit that Singapore has long supported India's strategic engagement of the region and that, as an emerging power, India can play an important role in shaping and maintaining an open, balanced and inclusive regional order.

India is also an invaluable partner to Asean in two areas: economic cooperation and in linking up the region, he said, suggesting that both sides update the Asean-India Free Trade Area, among other things.

"If we can make all this progress, then we can look forward to the next chapter in Asean-India relations, with deeper engagement and more robust cooperation," he said.

Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2016, with the headline 'East Asia Summit 'a platform for tackling challenges together''. Print Edition | Subscribe