KUALA LUMPUR: Asean will have no difficulty accepting the United States into the East Asia Summit (EAS) provided Washington signs the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with the grouping.
People who embrace us, we always embrace them back, quipped Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar at a press conference after the EAS foreign ministers met for a working lunch.
Syed Hamid said the EAS was not confrontational and not meant to replicate the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation of which the United States is a member.
The 16-member EAS will be having its inaugural summit here on Wednesday. Russia, which, is a non-member of the forum, will attend as a guest of Malaysia.
Its leader Vladimir Putin will address the EAS for a few minutes and leave once the summit commences. EAS brings together the 10 member nations of Asean with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.
Syed Hamid said Russia considers itself part of East Asia as well as Europe; and Malaysia on its part had no objections to Moscow coming in as a member for the first EAS but there had been no consensus which was why it was attending briefly as only a guest.
Many Asean ministers have expressed wanting to see Russia come on board in the EAS at some future date. It is up to the leaders to decide whether now or later, he added.
He pointed out that Russia had fit the criteria to join the EAS it had written in asking to be a member of the forum, it is an Asean dialogue partner, it had signed the treaty, it had accepted Asean being in the drivers seat and it had a substantive relationship with the group.
If the US is interested in joining the process, it is up to the US to let us know and for us to look at it. But one condition is you have to sign the (Treaty of Amity and Cooperation), he said.
The treaty is Aseans non-aggression pact which will prohibit pre-emptive strikes on other countries.
Asean also held its first Asean-Russian ministerial preparatory meeting yesterday. This is a prelude to the Asean-Russia summit which would be held on Tuesday.