Asean countries may feel "tidal pulls" amid the rising influence of regional powers like China and India, but the grouping must not allow fault lines to develop, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
The 10 members also want to maintain and develop their ties with the United States, even as the political mood there has changed, he noted.
"In this shifting environment, it is important that Asean works actively to maintain its centrality and relevance," said PM Lee, delivering the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute 50th Anniversary Lecture.
Asean is too diverse to aim for a European-style union, with its own Parliament, Court of Justice or currency, but its members must work to keep the group relevant and cohesive, he said. He added that its consensus-building approach to decision making has served it well, and helps external partners see value in deepening their engagement of the region through the grouping, which Singapore is chairing this year.