Jul 24, 2014

ASEAN - Territorial tensions, ethnic conflicts undermine ASEAN unity: ADB think tank

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Simmering tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea and ethnic conflicts pose serious threats to regional unity and could undermine efforts to promote closer cooperation among Southeast Asian economies, the Asian Development Bank Institute said in a study released this week.

"Unresolved territorial and ethnic conflicts -- within ASEAN and on its periphery -- remain serious threats to regional unity and harmony," the ADBI report said.

Longstanding territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands and Scarborough Shoal pit China against four ASEAN members -- Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

"Managing and resolving these disputes will increasingly test the effectiveness of political mechanisms to maintain peace and security in the region," the study says.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is home to about 620 million people with a combined gross domestic product of more than $2.3 trillion, or 3.3 percent of the world total.

ASEAN plans to establish an economic community by next year to promote the flow of goods, services, investments and skilled labor among its 10 member countries, but the ADB has earlier said it is "highly unlikely" that ASEAN will attain the goal by the target date.

The ADBI report also criticizes what it calls a lack of internal cohesion to formulate a long-term regional development strategy, its loss of "centrality" in the regional economic and geopolitical context due to the rise of China and India, and the region's inability to collectively manage climate change, energy security, and regional natural disasters.

Aside from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, ASEAN also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.


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