Asean praised for defusing tensions in South China Sea
By Azlan Othman

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attending Bali talks on Friday praised the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China for agreeing on guidelines aimed at defusing tensions over the South China Sea. "I want to commend Asean and China for working so closely together to include implementation guidelines for the declaration of conduct in the South China Sea," Clinton said before meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

The six-nation plus Asean talks, involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia, Senior ministers from all the six-party nations are in Bali this week for a hectic round of diplomacy that culminates today, on Saturday with the Asean Regional Forum, Asia's premier security summit.

Meanwhile His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade attending the talks yesterday morning, co-chaired the Asean-European Union (EU) Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) with Ms Elzbieta Bienkowska, Minister of Regional Development of the Republic of Poland, as the representative of the EU, at the Bali International Convention Centre, Indonesia.

The Foreign Ministers reviewed the progress of the dialogue relationship and discussed ways to enhance cooperation. His Royal Highness expressed appreciation for the EU's support to Asean, particularly in capacity-building.

Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, represented Brunei Darussalam at the Asean-Canada, Asean-India and Asean-United States of America (USA) PMCs.

His Royal Highness, yesterday afternoon, attended the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Consultation, together with other Asean Foreign Minsiters and the Foreign Ministers of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the USA.

The EAS Ministers in the plenary session discussed the progress and future direction of EAS cooperation and the preparations for the 6th East Asia Summit in November 2011. The ministers, during the retreat session, exchanged views on regional and international issues, including Korean Peninsula, maritime security, food and energy security, and the environment.

His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Zariah, last evening, joined Foreign Ministers of Asean, dialogue partners, members of the Asean Regional Forum, and their spouses at a dinner hosted by Dr R M Marty M Natalegawa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, and Mrs Sranya B Natalegawa at the Bali International Convention Centre.

The dinner was also attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Masna and YAM Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Aziz.

Meanwhile, AFP also reported that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will tell her Asian counterparts on Saturday the United States has a "strategic stake" in the South China Sea, an official travelling with her said of the ARF meeting to be held today.

The official said Clinton would make a "very detailed statement" at a regional security summit in Indonesia about the importance of the South China Sea to American and global commerce.

"We have a strategic stake in how issues there are managed," the official said, citing comments Clinton was preparing to make in her speech to the Asean Regional Forum on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

She would highlight the importance of "freedom of navigation", "unimpeded legal commerce" and "the maintenance of peace and stability" in the South China Sea, according to the official. China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) announced on Wednesday in Bali a "breakthrough" in the dispute, endorsing a set of guidelines designed to reduce tensions in the waterway. - Borneo Bulletin (23rd July 2011)