Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks during the start of the 34th Asean Summit in Bangkok on Sunday. Leaders of the member states of the regional bloc have approved the Indo-Pacific Cooperation Concept, initiated by Indonesia. (Antara Photo/Puspa Perwitasari)

Asean Leaders Approve Outlook on Indo-Pacific Cooperation Concept

BY :TELLY NATHALIA

JUNE 23, 2019

Bangkok. Leaders of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations approved the regional bloc's outlook on the Indo-Pacific Cooperation Concept, initiated by Indonesia, during a plenary session in Bangkok on Saturday.

"After comprehensive deliberations … Asean has developed the 'Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,' which is significant, as Asean now has a common approach on the issue," Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told journalists at the end of the 34th Asean Summit on Sunday.

The leaders reaffirmed the bloc's centrality, inclusiveness, complementarities bound by international law "and commitment to advancing economic engagement in the region as the main principles of the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific."

"We encourage external partners to support and cooperate with Asean on the key areas outlined in the outlook as their contributions to maintaining peace, freedom and prosperity in the region," the leaders said in the statement.

Indonesia also received praise for taking the lead on the issue "in finalizing the outlook, which embodies Asean unity, centrality and leadership in the evolving regional architecture."

Indonesia first presented its Indo-Pacific Cooperation Concept at a ministerial meeting in Singapore last year. It is based on the principles of openness, transparency and inclusivity, to promote dialogue, cooperation and friendship, and the upholding of international law.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi gave assurances at the time that Asean's centrality principle would be behind the concept of cooperation.

"Indonesia conveys its gratitude for Asean countries' support to develop the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific. … Thanks to God, today, the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific was adopted by its leaders," Retno said.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attended the regional summit to express Indonesia's concerns over the potential impact the ongoing trade war between the United States and China may have on the economies of Asean member states, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement and the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar's Rakhine State.

The leaders agreed to conclude negotiations on the RCEP before the end of this year.

"We urge the RCEP ministers and officials to redouble their efforts to reach this target," they said in the statement.

Asean leaders also called on the bloc's partners to prioritize the negotiations and work together closely to conclude it this year.

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