Five reasons why this Asean Summit matters

Myanmar President Thein Sein (right) gestures after welcoming Philippines's President Benigno Aquino ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (right) gestures after welcoming Philippines's President Benigno Aquino ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (centre) and his wife Khin Khin Win (right) welcome Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO:
Myanmar President Thein Sein (centre) and his wife Khin Khin Win (right) welcome Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (second from left) and his wife Khin Khin Win (second from right) welcome Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and his wife ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar'
Myanmar President Thein Sein (second from left) and his wife Khin Khin Win (second from right) welcome Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and his wife ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (centre) and his wife Khin Khin Win (right) welcome Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO:
Myanmar President Thein Sein (centre) and his wife Khin Khin Win (right) welcome Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (second from left) and his wife Khin Khin Win (second from right) welcome Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha (left) and his wife ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in My
Myanmar President Thein Sein (second from left) and his wife Khin Khin Win (second from right) welcome Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha (left) and his wife ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (right) gestures after welcoming Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (right) gestures after welcoming Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Myanmar President Thein Sein (right) welcomes Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his wife Ho Ching ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- P
Myanmar President Thein Sein (right) welcomes Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (centre) and his wife Ho Ching ahead of the 25th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Nov 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

NAYPYITAW, MYANMAR - The 25th Asean Summit, which starts today in Myanmar's capital, has been called a historic moment for the group of 10, with its secretary-general Le Luong Minh terming it "the most important turning year deciding the achievement of the Asean Community".

Here's five reasons why the Asean and East Asia Summits as well as related meetings today and tomorrow matter.

1. Eleventh hour talks for Asean Community 2015 goals:

With barely a year to go before member states launch an Asean Community, including the Asean Economic Community which aspires to greater economic integration and freer movement of goods and capital, Asean leaders are expected to engage in intensive talks to spur their neighbours to meet the goals that have been set out.

2. South China Sea to figure in talks:

With progress on mitigating tensions taking place slowly, the South China Sea dispute is expected to again be a key item on the agenda after having been a thorn in relationships between China and other claimant countries like Vietnam and the Philippines. With China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang in attendance, Asean leaders are likely to push for real progress in establishing a Code of Conduct that will lay down rules of engagement in the area.

3. Ebola and Isis: tackling the other important geopolitical issues of the day

Other pressing international issues of common concern that leaders will tackle include how countries in the region can better handle the Ebola outbreak. Leaders at the summit are also expected to make a stand on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group, as well as detail protocols for handling wildlife trafficking and disaster response.

4. New leaders making their regional debut

With new political leaders such as Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha participating in the Asean Summit for the first time, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking part in the 18-member East Asia Summit for the first time too - all three took office this year - analysts expect the summits to be used to build new relationships.

5. Charting Asean's way forward

Beyond the Asean Community 2015 goals, Asean leaders are also expected to decide on the direction for a post-2015 vision for the grouping. The leaders are expected to adopt a Nay Pyi Taw Declaration at the conclusion of the summit that will serve as a compass for the group come next year, where a comprehensive plan will be formulated when the chairmanship of Asean passes on to Malaysia.

yanliang@sph.com.sg