Southeast Asian defence ministers will meet in Indonesia alongside key players in the Indo-Pacific this week, with the ASEAN bloc set to reinforce a message of centrality as major powers jostle for influence in the region.
The annual get-together, which starts on Wednesday (Nov 15), comes as conflict rages in the Middle East and Ukraine and as tensions ratchet up in disputed waters in the South China Sea, where China is being accused of aggression against the Philippines, which has US backing and seeks to boost its military ties with Japan.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chair in Indonesia has yet to confirm attendees, but among them is US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will meet ASEAN counterparts on Wednesday.
The talks will expand on Thursday to include Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia.
ASEAN, a region of about 660 million people with a combined gross domestic product of more than US$3.2 trillion, has for years been courted by Washington and Beijing, but their fierce rivalry has caused its members concern.
“Competition is good. But competition should not deteriorate into a zero-sum game,” Indonesia’s defence minister and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto told a foreign policy forum this week, where he stressed the importance of non-alignment.
Source: Channel News Asia