Wed 18 May 2005
Filed under: International,News
CANBERRA: The United States supports efforts by Asian countries to further integrate their economies, but any trading bloc shouldn’t exclude countries in a wider area outside the region, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
Delegates at the inaugural East Asian Summit, scheduled for December, will discuss creating a trading bloc that would include the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
“From the U.S. point of view, we want to ensure that the East Asian Summit is an open process; is an inclusive process,” said Christopher Hill, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “We support greater integration in the region.”
Hill declined to comment on Australian plans to sign a nonaggression treaty with ASEAN in return for becoming a foundation member of the summit, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur. Critics say the nonaggression treaty could conflict with Australia’s existing alliances, including with the United States.
“I can’t speak for Australia on that,” Hill told reporters in the national capital Canberra during a two-day visit before flying to Laos. “I’m sure the Australian government will do what it needs to do in that regard.”
Australia’s staunch support of the United States in its war on terror and policy of pre-emptive attack on perceived threats in other countries has created suspicion in the region.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reminded Canberra of those tensions in a television interview earlier this year in which he said Australia was more concerned about its relationship with the United States than its Asian neighbors.
ASEAN’s members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.