Vivian in Vientiane for Asean meet, other talks

The Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting is the first high-level Asean meeting since last week's tribunal ruling against China's claims in the South China Sea.
The Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting is the first high-level Asean meeting since last week's tribunal ruling against China's claims in the South China Sea.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan is attending the Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting and a series of related discussions on regional security and cooperation in Vientiane from today to Tuesday.

This is the first high-level Asean meeting since last week's tribunal ruling on an arbitration brought by Manila against China's claims in the South China Sea, which have been a source of tension in the region.

China refused to recognise the July 12 ruling, which invalidated its historical claims over almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea. It has also lobbied heavily for Asean not to take a common stance on the South China Sea issue. The sea is also claimed in part by four Asean states - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei - and Taiwan.

There are serious concerns that disagreement over the issue may leave Asean unable to issue a joint communique - a repeat of events at a 2012 meeting in Phnom Penh.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will be among other key officials arriving here for the related meetings, such as the Asean Regional Forum and East Asia Summit foreign ministers' meeting, on Monday and Tuesday.

Asean foreign ministers will discuss "the progress of the implementation of the Asean Community Vision 2025" as well as "the evolving regional architecture, Asean's external relations and exchange views on regional and international issues", Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan wrote: "Asean member states face multiple common challenges, amid a complex regional and international environment. Our top priority is the need to maintain Asean's unity and centrality. We will discuss ways to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, with full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, including the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea)."

After the meetings end, Dr Balakrishnan will make an introductory visit to Laos on Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Vivian in Vientiane for Asean meet, other talks'. Print Edition | Subscribe