50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting


Sam Deave, Corporate Services Manager

The 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is taking place in Manila this week. In addition to all 10 ASEAN Foreign Ministers, others from outside the region are also in attendance.

It is the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson’s first visit to Manila. North Korea’s Foreign Minister, Ri Yong-ho, will also be present. One urgent matter to be discussed will be North Korea’s nuclear program. The US has said it is looking for peaceful dialogue and ASEAN’s support on the issue.

Other attendees include Foreign Ministers from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Australia as well as the ASEAN Secretary-General and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The South China Sea will also be discussed, however a draft communique reviewed by Reuters suggests that ASEAN has omitted references to China’s most controversial activities. The communique is now a ‘watered-down version’ of the one issues in Laos last year where ASEAN expressed “serious concern”, and “emphasised the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in all activities, including land reclamation.”

The Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano will be chairing the meeting in line with the Philippines chairing ASEAN for 2017. Under President Duterte, the Philippines has seen a change of direction in its China relationship and put aside disputes in exchange for funding pledges. This could explain the softer stance seen this year.