BANGKOK • Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will visit Thailand from today until Friday to attend the annual Asean Foreign Ministers' Meeting, East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Asean Regional Forum and other related meetings.
Alongside his counterparts in the 10-member Asean, Dr Balakrishnan will take stock of progress in multilateral cooperation, discuss ways to strengthen Asean centrality and unity, and exchange views on regional issues, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday in a press statement.
The discussions in Bangkok will also involve top diplomats from Asean's dialogue partners, including Australia, China, India, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
The gathering of foreign ministers is taking place as a simmering trade war between China and the US slows down regional growth.
Meanwhile, a spat between Japan and South Korea is complicating defence cooperation amid news that North Korea - which walked away from denuclearisation talks in February - tested two missiles last week.
South Korea's Supreme Court last year ordered two Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime forced labour. Japan, which argues that the issue of compensation had been settled five decades ago, has tightened controls over exports of materials for making semiconductors to South Korea, citing problems with Seoul's export controls.
According to news agency Kyodo, the US has expressed willingness to hold a trilateral meeting with Japan and South Korea on the sidelines of the Asean meetings.
Overlapping claims in the South China Sea are expected to continue to feature in discussions. China - which claims almost all the strategic waterway despite claims from Asean countries Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - has been in discussions with Asean to draft a binding code of conduct.
In Bangkok, too, Asean and China will launch a scholarship programme that will support Asean citizens pursuing higher education in China.
Dr Balakrishnan will be accompanied by officials from his ministry.