‘No hasty decisions at summit’

Setting the stage: Hishammuddin at the virtual signing ceremony of the Instruments of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-East Asia after a virtual meeting at the KL Hilton. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will ensure no hasty decisions are made at the 37th Asean Summit on matters pertaining to security and sovereignty of Asean countries that can end up with unnecessary loss of lives, says Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

He said the South China Sea issue would be discussed at the summit to be hosted by Vietnam, but unlikely to see an immediate solution.

“The new leadership under US President-elect Joe Biden will not necessarily affect Asean talks but the summit will make sure the new US administration understands Asean’s position, ” he said.

The summit, themed “Cohesive and Responsive Asean”, will focus primarily on the post-Covid-19 scenario which will include regional and international networking, the direction of Asean in developing it as a community, 2025 Vision and the formation of Asean Regional Centre on Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases.

The virtual summit begins tomorrow and ends on Sunday.

“It is a very, very fine balance that we have to tread when it comes to issues such as the South China Sea as they involve lives.

“We are already worried about unintended accidents which may occur as there is no way of retreating to correct a wrong move.

“Asean deliberations on these issues prove we have not ended up unleashing wars. We have not lost lives because of being emotional, ” said Hishammuddin.

The South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest waterways, is the subject of overlapping territorial disputes involving China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Although unresolved for decades, in recent years, China and the United States have locked horns over this issue, forcing Asean countries to find a solution.

Hishammuddin said Malaysia had insisted that the politics of hate and divide in Asean were managed properly and not merely used to end up with expedient results.

“Malaysia believes courage is exercising patience rather than merely getting political points as it involves lives, ” he said.

He said although outgoing US President Donald Trump had snubbed Asean meets in the past, it had not affected Asean’s relationship with the United States.

“Business is as usual with the US but the new administration has to be engaged as soon as possible. It is important to find areas we can agree upon and where we cannot, we inform them of our position, whether it is an issue of economy, trade or relationships or geopolitical such as the South China Sea issue, ” he said.

Hishammuddin was speaking to reporters after attending the Meeting of Asean Foreign Ministers, 22nd Asean Political-Security Community Council Meeting and 28th Asean Coordinating Council Meeting at a hotel here yesterday.

“These meetings set the stage for the 37th Asean Summit which will be attended by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Thursday.

“Among the issues discussed were matters concerning the South China Sea, developments in Rakhine, the Palestinian issue, non-traditional security threats and most importantly, handling the challenges of the new global landscape post-Covid-19, ” he said.

The Malaysian delegation headed by Muhyiddin includes Senior Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Hishammuddin, as well as senior government officials.

The main agenda for the 37th Asean Summit will also see the signing of the trade pact of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between the heads of Asean countries.

Asean leaders will also take part in the virtual Asean Plus One summits to be held with the leaders of the United States, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and China as well as a video conference with the secretary-general of the United Nations.

The three documents to be officially launched during the 37th Asean Summit are Mid-term Review of the Asean Community Vision 2025, Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework and Asean Regional Reserve of Medical supplies for Public Health Emergencies.

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