HANOI: Asean is considering expanding the Asean+6 grouping to include the United States and Russia.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said this would be reviewed by member nations after it was discussed by Asean heads of state in a retreat session of the Asean Summit.
He said the admission of the two countries into the economic grouping faced “constraints of political realities”.
“How much of time and opportunities are their leaders willing to set aside for this process?
“If the process is not participated by the top leadership of the countries, it will affect the process helmed by Asean,” he told Malaysian reporters at the sidelines of the Asean Summit here.
Citing the busy schedule of Barack Obama, Najib said the US President had agreed to attend a US-Asean Summit this year but until today, could not commit to a date.
“President Obama has also postponed his trip to Indonesia three times,” he said.
Asked if Asean would consider only expanding the Asean+6 to include only the United States or Russia, Najib said they preferred to admit both of them.
Asean+6 comprises the 10 South-East Asian countries, plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
“If we are to expand Asean+6, we will probably want it on the basis of plus two,” he said.
Indonesia said on Thursday it will chair Asean next year, in place of Brunei, because of a scheduling clash with its Apec host duties in 2013.
Under Asean’s system of rotating chairmanship which runs in alphabetical order, Brunei had been due to host Asean and its related summits and meetings in 2011.
But Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Indonesia had changed plans because it would have been due to chair Asean in 2013, the same year it hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.
“Indonesia is going to chair Asean next year. It was decided yesterday. We were supposed to chair in 2013 but we swapped,” he told reporters.
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