Four countries want to be Asean partners

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KUALA LUMPUR: Asean is considering applications from Norway, Ecuador, North Korea and Mongolia to establish a formal partnership with South-East Asia.

Foreign Ministry secretary-general Osman Hashim said the applications were sent a few months ago.

“There are different categories of partnership, so they have to go through the evaluation process,” he told reporters on Saturday after chairing a meeting of senior officials preparing for the Asean Summit of heads of government. The summit began this morning.

Asean has formal partnerships with several countries including Australia, China, Canada, European Union, New Zealand, South Korea and Pakistan.

Osman said Timor-Leste’s request to be Asean’s 11th member was also discussed. Timor Leste applied to join Asean in March 2011.

On other matters, Osman said a proposal for a common Asean time zone would be discussed by Asean ministers.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo had suggested the common time zone in March while on a visit to Malaysia.

Other issues discussed by the senior officials included a blueprint for an Asean Political and Security Community, measures to strengthen the Asean secretariat, and a proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, where several Asean members are locked in a border dispute with China.

The Asean Political-Security Community was one of the three pillars of cooperation for the Asean Community: the others are the Asean Economic Community and the Asean Socio-Cultural Community.

Asean is a regional grouping of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

– BERNAMA

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