JAKARTA — Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and partner countries are gathering in Jakarta for a series of meetings, with the situation in Myanmar high on the agenda as the prolonged crisis divides ASEAN and continues to cause concern globally.
This year’s chair, Indonesia, expects the Myanmar issue will be a key topic at the meetings, beginning on Tuesday.
“ASEAN remains deeply concerned about the increasing use of violence in Myanmar resulting in civilian casualties and destruction of public facilities. This must be stopped immediately,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters on Friday. “The issue of Myanmar will certainly be discussed again at the ASEAN foreign ministers’ retreat meeting.”
Myanmar, one of the bloc’s 10 members, came under military rule in February 2021, when the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown. The “five-point consensus” road map toward the restoration of peace, agreed upon at a special meeting in April 2021, includes a call for the immediate cessation of violence in the country, but that has not happened.
Nearly two and a half years since the military takeover, ASEAN has been under pressure to resolve the issue. But despite the calls for an urgent solution, the bloc has been divided on its stance over solving the Myanmar issue.
In June, Thailand convened a third regional meeting with representatives of the military regime. Seven ASEAN countries were represented — Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — as well as China and India. But key ASEAN member states, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, skipped the event, showing division among the members.
“We do expect our friends and partners in ASEAN to stick to their five-point consensus, to continue to downgrade Myanmar’s representation in the ASEAN ministerials, and we also look forward to finding ways to increase pressure on the regime to compel the regime to end its violence and return to a path of democracy,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink told reporters on Friday.
Besides the bloc’s own meeting of foreign ministers, top diplomats from countries in the Asia-Pacific region, North America and Europe, including U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken, will meet on Friday for the annual ASEAN Regional Forum, a rare international platform in which North Korea regularly participates. Among the forum’s 27 members are China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the U.S. and the European Union.
Most members will have their foreign ministers take part, but North Korea is believed to have assigned its ambassador to Indonesia instead of another high-level official, according to people familiar with the matter. The Russian Embassy in Indonesia meanwhile announced on Thursday that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the meeting in Jakarta.
The meetings are expected to look at wider range of topics amid the prolonged Ukraine war and ongoing disputes in the South China Sea.
“We have seen an upward trend of unhelpful and coercive and irresponsible Chinese actions in the South China Sea,” Kritenbrink told reporters. He added that the U.S. aims to work “with our ASEAN partners to advance our shared view and vision for the region, and to push back on behavior that runs counter to that vision … including the many irresponsible acts that we’ve seen carried out by China over the last several years and in the last several weeks.”
The foreign ministers will also hold bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the event. Kritenbrink mentioned that U.S. does not anticipate any meeting with North Korea in Jakarta.
As of Friday, more than 1,000 delegates from around the world were scheduled to fly to Jakarta, where they will seek to produce 12 outcome documents throughout the week, according to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.