Last update 11/16/2011 11:17:00 AM (GMT+7)

ASEAN foreign ministers gather

VietNamNet Bridge – Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations kicked off discussions yesterday, Nov 15, to prepare for a series of summits among their leaders, as well as with their partners, including Japan and the United States.

Foreign Ministers and representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) join hands during a photo session at the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua, on Indonesia's resort island of Bali yesterday. — AFP/VNA Photo

Territorial claims in the East Sea will likely overshadow the meetings, as well as the issue of Myanmar's chairmanship in 2014 and efforts to persuade the five nuclear countries – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – to respect ASEAN's nuclear weapon-free zone.

On Sunday, an ASEAN working group began initial talks to "identify the possible elements of" a code of conduct in the East Sea, according to Djauhari Oratmangun, director general for ASEAN co-operation at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.

In July, ASEAN and China agreed on a looser set of guidelines for the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct in the East Sea, which was agreed to by both sides in 2002 ensure the peaceful resolution of disputes in strategic sea lanes.

On Monday, high-ranking ASEAN officials also met their counterparts from the five nuclear-weapon states, simply called P5, to persuade them to sign a legally binding protocol of the grouping's 1995 Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty.

The treaty binds the members not to develop, manufacture, acquire, possess or have control over nuclear weapons, nor to station or transport nuclear weapons by any means.

Its protocol calls on the nuclear-weapon states to respect the status of the zone and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against states party to the treaty. The protocol is open to signing by the five nuclear-weapon states, but none of them has so far signed.

The ministers said they would approve Myanmar's bid to chair their 10-member bloc in 2014.

"Everybody agrees to Myanmar, 2014," Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told reporters at ASEAN talks.

"They have taken positive steps toward democratisation. We should encourage them more by letting them host the meeting."

"All the ministers support Myanmar's chairmanship in 2014 and I welcome the decision," Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the bloc's leaders would make a formal decision when they meet later this week.