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PM Lee Urges ASEAN Member States To Unite

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong underscored the importance of unity and coherence among ASEAN state members during the 21st ASEAN Summit held at Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Minister Lee said that “a united and cohesive ASEAN is of vital interest to every ASEAN member.”

According to Minister Lee, there are many ways for ASEAN members to achieve unity. First, he said that ASEAN has to redouble its community-building efforts through political security, and economic and socio-cultural cooperation by December 31, 2015. He emphasized that this target date should be strictly met to show credibility and to sustain people’s hopes.

The second area Mr. Lee emphasized in the promotion of unity is the implementation of the ASEAN Connectivity projects. PM Lee said, “a more integrated ASEAN will prove to be beneficial to the people, businesses, and the whole region.” He also mentioned that ASEAN must implement projects in the Master Plan on Connectivity. While he noted that worthy projects had already started, he encouraged that new projects should be identified.

The third area that Mr. Lee underscored is for ASEAN to expand cooperation and ties with its external partners. In line with this, Mr. Lee welcomed the launch of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. The RCEP will involve nearly half of the world’s population and a third of the world’s GDP. Mr. Lee urged for the open and inclusive discussions of the RCEP for the participation of future ASEAN FTA partners.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lee also welcomed the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. He said that this is “a significant step forward as it demonstrated the regional will to promote human rights in ASEAN own way, but in conformity with international law.

In addition, Mr. Lee also discussed the proper management of tensions in the South China Sea. The group, he said must play a constructive role in managing the problem. He urged the states to take into consideration the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea dispute.