Bali summit to focus on regional development

Updated: 2011-11-18 07:02

By Li Xiaokun and Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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Bali summit to focus on regional development

Premier Wen Jiabao (left) meets on Thursday with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali. [Agencies]

BALI, Indonesia / BEIJING - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) does not want specific political and security issues to become topics of discussion at the approaching East Asia Summit, the Indonesian president told Premier Wen Jiabao on this Indonesian resort island on Thursday.

If they do, they could draw attention at the event away from other important business, said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The remarks referred to the calls that the US and several ASEAN members have made for territorial disputes in the South China Sea to be discussed at the East Asia summit on Saturday.

Yudhoyono said on Thursday evening that, against the backdrop of world economic difficulties, ASEAN countries should concentrate more on development and ensure the summit advances "in the right direction".

"ASEAN is not in favor of discussing detailed political and security issues at the summit," Yudhoyono said, according to a press release from the Foreign Ministry.

Initiated in 2005, the East Asia Summit was designed as a forum for discussions about regional development.

Wen said Beijing wants to see the summit stick to its original purpose.

China has long insisted that its territorial disputes with some ASEAN members should be settled through bilateral consultations. It announced this week that Beijing is willing to work further with ASEAN nations to find a way to prevent accidents by observing the code of conduct for the South China Sea.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Yudhoyono holds China's work to solve the dispute in high esteem.

The two leaders' meeting came a few hours after Indonesia echoed Chinese concerns about a strengthening of the US military's presence in northern Australia. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa warned that may foster tension and mistrust.

The plan to post up to 2,500 Marines in Australia's Northern Territory from mid-2012 was released on Wednesday during a quick visit to Canberra by US President Barack Obama, who said it showed a "commitment to the entire Asia Pacific region".

Washington has prominently announced plans to "pivot" its foreign policy toward Asia.

That announcement quickly drew criticism from China, widely seen as the target of the plan. The foreign ministry questioned whether strengthening the troops' presence was appropriate or "in the interest of countries in this region".

Natalegawa also expressed concerns about the plan, which will give US military aircraft greater access and lead to a troop boost in northern Australia, right on Indonesia's doorstep.

"What I would hate to see is if such developments were to provoke a reaction and counter-reaction precisely to create that vicious circle of tensions and mistrust or distrust," Natalegawa said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said Indonesia's remarks show that many ASEAN states - especially those with no stake in the dispute - do not want the South China Sea dispute to draw attention away from other issues of importance at the East Asia Summit scheduled for Saturday.

Chen Shiqiu, former Chinese ambassador to Indonesia, said Indonesia wants to build mutual trust within ASEAN and foster the regional bloc's central role in the summit.

Premier Wen will have a tight day on Friday. After attending a 10+1 meeting with ASEAN members, he will go to a 10+3 summit with leaders from Japan and South Korea.

AFP contributed to this story.