PHNOM PENH: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said a united and cohesive ASEAN is of vital interest to every ASEAN member.
Sharing his perspectives at the plenary session of the 21st ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Mr Lee suggested several ways to achieve this.
First, ASEAN has to redouble its community building efforts. He supports the proposal to realise the ASEAN Community built on three pillars -- political security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation -- by December 31, 2015.
It is also imperative that member countries meet the target set, otherwise ASEAN's credibility will be affected and its people's hopes will be dented.
The second area is to implement the ASEAN Connectivity projects. Mr Lee said a more integrated ASEAN benefits its people, businesses and the wider region, and hence the grouping must implement projects in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.
He noted that most attractive projects have already been taken up and the grouping should identify new projects and scope remaining projects properly so they are economically viable.
The third is to expand cooperation with its external partners and in this regard, Mr Lee welcomes the launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, which will involve nearly half the world's population and a third of the world's GDP.
Mr Lee called for the RCEP discussions to be open and inclusive so that future ASEAN FTA partners can participate in it when they are ready.
The Singapore Prime Minister also welcomed the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, describing it as a significant step forward as it demonstrated the regional will to promote human rights in ASEAN's own way but in conformity with international law.
Mr Lee also touched on the need to manage tensions in the South China Sea. He said overlapping claims are in the heart of the ASEAN region and that the group must play a constructive role in managing problem.
Mr Lee stressed that ASEAN should not take sides on the merits of the various claims, but it must state a position which is neutral, forward-looking, and in accordance with international law.
Therefore, he has urged that ASEAN should counsel all parties to continue to abide by the Declaration of Conduct, exercise maximum restraint, and refrain from provocative actions.
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