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PM jets off for ASEAN-US talks

PM jets off for ASEAN-US talks

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has left Cambodia to attend the second ASEAN-United States Leaders’ Meeting in New York, where regional security, economic cooperation and the upcoming elections in Myanmar are expected to top the agenda.

Sri Thamrong, a government adviser who is part of the Cambodian delegation to the US, said yesterday that American President Barack Obama and heads of state from ASEAN’s 10 member nations would use the meeting to discuss a wide range of issues.

“The leaders of ASEAN and the US will look into the issues of economics, climate change, natural disasters, power security, food security, counterterrorism and other regional issues,” he said at Phnom Penh International Airport.

According to a draft copy of a joint statement set to be issued at the meeting tomorrow, the US and ASEAN will pledge to “further enhance economic cooperation” with the aim of sustaining the recovery from the global economic downturn and boosting domestic job creation.

It noted that two-way trade between the US and the Southeast Asian bloc reached US$84 billion in the first six months of the year, up 28 percent over the same period last year.

The draft also addressed regional flashpoints, including the situation in Myanmar, which is scheduled to hold long-awaited but controversial elections on November 7.

It said that ASEAN welcomed the “continued US engagement” with the government of Myanmar, expressing hope that it would encourage the military junta to “undertake political and economic reforms”.
“We underscored the importance of a free, fair, inclusive and transparent general election on 7 November 2010 to the long term stability and prosperity of Myanmar,” it said.
Myanmar’s election plans have drawn censure from critics of the junta, who say they are a merely a fig leaf for continued military rule.
The draft weighed in on the Korean Peninsula, making a joint call for the North Korean government to honour previous agreements to “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes”.
It also called for the “peaceful settlement of disputes in the region, including [the] South China Sea”, where island territories are claimed by China, Vietnam and several other Southeast Asian nations.
On the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, the ASEAN-US draft statement reaffirmed the countries’ commitment to the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, first established in 1995.
The treaty, the draft said, “contributes towards global nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation [and] the promotion of peaceful use of nuclear energy. We are committed to maintain the prevention of the spread and use of weapons of mass destruction and build a world free of their threat.”
Sri Thamrong said Hun Sen would take the opportunity to hold sideline talks with Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in New York. He did not go into detail about the content of the talks, but said it would focus on “various issues” to do with the countries’ ongoing border dispute.

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