Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad subtly told US to keep out of ASEAN affairs and said Southeast Asian nations must solve their own problems. His comments came after Western nations led by the United States had criticised admission of Laos and Burma to ASEAN on Wednesday.
In an address opening the 30th anniversary meeting of foreign ministers
of the Association of South East Asian Nations, Dr Mahathir stressed that
the key to peace, stability and progress in the region depended on prosperity.
" But we must not be passive in the exercise of this Prosper-Thy-Neighbour policy. We should actively help each other. Certainly the newer members of our Association are going to need help in order to catch up with the older members. I believe there is an ASEAN formula for success, for how else can we explain why every ASEAN country has shown rapid economic growth and political stability? We must help every country to make use of this formula so that we can all be stable and prosperous." Mahathir stressed.
``A former American Secretary of State, Mr. Robert S McNamara, noted that the incidence of (internal) conflict had been highest in the poorest countries and lowest in the richest. In helping our fellow members to prosper, we are in fact helping to reduce conflict in our countries. With this we will all prosper and be conflict-free ", Mahathir said in a veiled contrast to the policy approach of the current US Secretaty of State.
Despite American lobbying ASEAN did not revoke a membership offer to Burma. But on her departure for Malaysia on July 23, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she was taking a tough message on Cambodia and on Burma to the meeting of Southeast Asian leaders. She made the comments during a speech to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, where she made a brief stop before heading to Kuala Lumpur for the ASEAN Regional Forum, which follows the ASEAN ministerial meeting. ARF brings the ASEAN group together with 11 other Asian and Western powers, including the United States, Japan, China, Russia and the European Union.
In reviewing recent history of the region Mahathir said, "It was predicted that if North Vietnam achieved victory, then, like dominoes one by one the other countries in the region would fall to Communism and chaos. We were told then, as we are told now, that we needed foreign protection against predatory neighbours such as a victorious Vietnam and the other powerful Eastern countries."
"Against all odds Vietnam and its much derided soldiers in black pyjamas won against the greatest power on earth. But the dominoes did not fall. Instead, they prospered and showed themselves very stable and capable of managing their countries well. ", he said.
Mahathir said ASEAN membership would have a steadying influence on the domestic politics of member nations and help them progress.
``ASEAN must resist and reject such attempts at coercion. They are not a part of the ASEAN way,'' Mahathir said. ``We will resolve our problems in our own way and in our own time. No one, but no one, should assume that only they know the solutions to all problems.
``They have failed far too often for us to be convinced that only they know what is right and what is wrong,'' he said.
ASEAN prefers a policy of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries, opting for what it calls constructive engagement to bring about change and rejecting economic sanctions. Referring to recent speculative attacks on Southeast Asian currencies, he said ``we still need to protect ourselves from self-serving rogues and international brigandage.''
ASEAN now comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, Burma and Laos.
Peace and Cooperation keys to Asia-Pacific future
As part of the world, Asia-Pacific in general and Southeast Asia in particular also move along the world main stream and yet have their own characteristics. Though remaining complicated, over the past year Asia-Pacific has seen many positive developments which favour the trend of peace, stability and cooperation among nations.
It is no doubt that there have been developments in line with the trend of dialogue on the Korean Peninsular. I would like to refer to the agreement recently reached on the four-party talks. Proceeding from the desire to see a stable Asia Pacific, Vietnam welcomes the agreement and regards it as a first concrete and important step toward to the establishment of a durable and stable peace in an area sensitive to peace and security in Asia.
The recovery of the People's Republic of China's sovereignty over Hong Kong constitutes a historic event, doing away with the last colonial vestige in Asia. Like other Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam entertains broad economic relations with Hong Kong and China. Therefore, Vietnam sincerely wishes Hong Kong continue to enjoy stability and prosperity within the formula "one country, two systems", thus contributing to regional stability and prosperity.
Compared with the first half of 1996, there have been many indications which show that relationship among big powers in the region has moved in a more stable manner. It is our hope that this trend would be consolidated, thereby contributing to maintaining the cooperative atmosphere in Asia-Pacific. With the upgrading of India, China and Russia to its full dialogue partners, ASEAN is now entertaining dialogue partnership with all big powers. This is also an important turning-point in ASEAN external relations and a new element serving for the interest of peace and stability in the region.
Though coming into being just three years ago, the ASEAN Regional Forum has created good momentum and is playing a positive role as the only security forum in this vast region of Asia-Pacific. We are proud that ARF was created at ASEAN initiative and the Association has been recognized by other ARF members as the primary driving force of the Forum. Meanwhile, that also places on us great responsibility of maintaining the existing momentum and enabling the Forum to achieve its objectives of ensuring regional peace, stability and security.
Yet, the regional security picture is not always bright. There remains justified concern about elements detrimental to regional security, including the disputes over territorial waters in both the Far East and the Eastern Sea, which overcast our sky as black clouds. As a littoral country in the Eastern Sea, Vietnam has no greater desire than to enjoy a calm and tranquil sea. Along that line, we are of the view that these disputes can only be solved through negotiations, both bilaterally and among the countries concerned, on the basis of strict respect for international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and ASEAN's 1992 Manila Declaration on the South China Sea. Pending a fundamental and durable solution, the parties concerned should exercise self-restraint, maintain the status quo, and avoid any incidents that could aggravate the situation and jeopardize the cooperative atmosphere among countries.
As a neighbor of Cambodia, Vietnam follows with profound interest the recent developments in this country. Vietnam regards these as Cambodia's internal affairs which can be solved only by the Cambodian people. Vietnam's consistent policy is to strictly respect Cambodia's independence and sovereignty and not to interfere into its internal affairs. Therefore, we always respect the decisions made by the Cambodian people. At the same time, having friendly relations with Cambodia, Vietnam sincerely wishes the Cambodian people peace and stability for their national reconstruction.
The decision by the 5th ASEAN Summit held in December 1995 that Cambodia, Laos and Myammar would be admitted into the Association is of strategic and long-term importance, opening up a prospect for a united Southeast Asia embracing all 10 countries in the region. ASEAN-10 will definitely stand as an important factor in preserving peace, broadening regional cooperation and enhancing ASEAN's prestige in the international arena. This AMM is of special significance as it coincides with the 30th anniversary of ASEAN. Having undergone years of trials and hardships, ASEAN has now become a dynamic and prestigious organization in the international arena thanks to its efforts to contribute to peace and cooperation. With the admission of Laos and Myanmar, as it enters its 30th year, ASEAN is now close to the goal of embracing all Southeast Asian countries.
Vietnam sincerely hopes that temporary difficulties will be overcome and the lofty vision of ASEAN-10 will soon be realized.
The Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone is the first treaty of this kind in Asia and also the first ever treaty signed by all 10 Southeast Asian nations. This is an important contribution to peace, stability and security in the region, especially when the Treaty came into effect last March. It is our hope that the nuclear weapon states will soon sign the annexed Protocol to the Treaty, thus making concrete contribution to consolidating peace in Southeast Asia.
Another important landmark is that the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation has now become the common asset of 10 Southeast Asian nations. Vietnam hopes that legal procedures would be completed soon to pave the way for countries outside the region to associate with, so that the basic content of the Treaty would become a kind of "Code of Conduct" not only for ASEAN but also in ASEAN relations with countries outside the region.
At the First ASEAN Informal Summit in November 1996, the ASEAN Heads of State and Government decided to work out ASEAN Vision 2020. This will be a very important document which must concisely and clearly define the strategic objectives for us as well as for future generations.
Economic cooperation is now becoming an area of paramount importance to ASEAN. Yet, with the admission of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, and Cambodia at a later date, levels of economic development by the member countries are to some extent different. ASEAN cooperation planning should take this into account and should aim at encouraging faster and stronger economic development in the new member countries so as to narrow down this gap. On the other hand, ASEAN should work out appropriate forms of support to facilitate new member countries' integration into the Association's programmes of cooperation.
The decision by the 5th ASEAN Summit to elevate functional cooperation to a higher plane is a right and important one with a view to equating the cooperation in this field with that in the political and economic ones, and at the same time contributing to the intensification of people-to-people interaction, helping member countries better tackle with social problems confronting them such as drug abuse, HIV/AIDS as well as environmental issues.
1997 is of special significance to ASEAN as we have just welcomed two new members and we are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of ASEAN. Vietnam welcomes various commemorative activities at both regional and national levels so as to raise public awareness of ASEAN and of the need to consolidate our cooperation in all fields for the prosperity of each and every member country.
We are now nearing the third millennium. It is a great honor for Vietnam to host the 6th ASEAN Summit to be held in Hanoi next year since this is the last ASEAN Summit before we enter a new century with both new opportunities and challenges. Vietnam wishes to enjoy close cooperation and assistance from other ASEAN member countries in order to ensure a glorious success of the Hanoi Summit, thus marking a new milestone in the evolution of ASEAN.
UN reviews collective punishment of Palestinians
The Economic and Social Council in Geneva reviewed a United Nations report on July 24 that describes intensified settlement activity in occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories as an attempt by Israel to alter the demographic and geographical features of the area.
Commenting on the report, a representative of Palestine called on the Council to act in the face of "inhumane and unjustifiable" Israeli actions. A representative of Syria warned, meanwhile, that the decision taken by the Knesset yesterday to ban an Israeli withdrawal from the Syrian Golan Heights could mean risks and dangers of unknown outcomes for the region.
The report indicates that there has been an increase in unemployment and a significant decrease of income among the Palestinians in the occupied territories, along with intensified settlement activities in the Syrian Golan Heights. Introducing the document, the head of the New York office of the regional economic commissions of the United Nations said Israeli settlement activities carried out during 1996 would create new geographical and demographic realities before the start of the final stage of peace negotiations.
But according to the representative of Israel, the debate was part of a unique agenda item that singled out Palestinians "as if there was only one group in the whole world who had serious problems and needed special attention". The discussion also ran counter to efforts to streamline and "rationalize" the Economic and Social Council agenda, and was part of an effort to bypass direct negotiations, he said.
A draft resolution that would have the Council, among other things,
demand that the Israeli occupation force cease its measures of collective
punishment against the Palestinian people was introduced this morning and
is expected to be acted on tomorrow.
UNICEF increases appeal for N Korea famine
Food shortages in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a threat to the lives of children in that country, according to the United Nations children's agency.
Anthony Hewett, who is the representative of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) based in Bangkok, Thailand, told the press at UN Headquarters on Thursday that the alarming incidents of malnutrition developing in the country had led UNICEF to increase the appeal for DPRK from $4.7 million to nearly $14.4 million. According to Mr. Hewett, five per cent of children under five years of age in the country may be severely malnourished and at least 15 to 20 per cent are moderately malnourished. Citing government estimates, Mr. Hewett said that the total number of the malnourished children under five years of age was 38 per cent.
The situation had been compounded by the deterioration of the health system which lacked supplies and maintenance, Mr. Hewett said. This had become a serious health problem for children already weakened by malnutrition who could die from health problems such as respiratory infections, according to the representative of UNICEF.
North Korea mark Egypt's July 23 Revolution anniversary
Pyongyang, July 23 (KCNA) -- Newspapers here today dedicate bylined articles to the 45th anniversary of the victorious July 23 Revolution, national holiday of the Egyptian people. Rodong Sinmun says that since the victory of the revolution the Egyptian people have made great achievements in the efforts for social progress, smashing the persistent aggression and interventionist moves of the imperialists and zionists.
Pursuing the nonaligned policy, Egypt is striving to develop relations with many countries including Arab nations and seek a peace solution to the Mid East problem. The Korean people are sincerely rejoiced over the achievements made by the Egyptian people in the efforts for national progress and prosperity and extend firm support and solidarity to them in the struggle for Mid East peace and stability.
Minju Joson says that the Korean people wish the Egyptian people success
in their efforts to build a new society, expressing the belief that the
friendly relations between the two countries will further expand and develop.