Interview: Anifah Aman
What effects will increased ASEAN integration have on the geopolitics of the region?
ANIFAH AMAN: Greater integration would mean a more resilient and stronger ASEAN, which would lead to greater regional peace, stability and prosperity. It would be positive for the region as a whole for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the main aim of ASEAN integration is to ensure higher standards of living, as well as social progress for our peoples. It is only through further connectivity that we can ensure that South-east Asia remains economically vibrant and competitive. On our own, each ASEAN member is too small, so we need to integrate to enable us to enjoy the benefits of economies of scale. By becoming more competitive, we will be able to export more, and this will make us wealthier. As ASEAN becomes wealthier, member countries will also be able to import more. As a market of 600m people, an ASEAN that trades more with our regional partners can help to further peace in the region, since increased trade is an important element in promoting stability.
Secondly, ASEAN is at the heart of the evolving regional institutional architecture, whose main aim is to create organisations and norms that will promote peace and stability through greater transparency, dialogue and predictable behaviour. A stronger ASEAN resulting from greater regional integration will help the organisation to fulfil this role. Thirdly, a stronger, more integrated ASEAN will enable the organisation to play a more active and constructive role in global affairs. There is certainly the will in ASEAN to do this.
Should Malaysia play an increased role in resolving international conflicts?
AMAN: Malaysia adheres to the fundamental principles of international law and the UN Charter, including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, noninterference in the internal affairs of nations, peaceful settlement of disputes, and renunciation of the threat or use of force against other states. In cases of disputes, it is imperative that all concerned parties exercise utmost restraint and strive to achieve peaceful settlement of disputes or conflicts through constructive dialogue with full respect for international law. Drawing on our experience in southern Thailand and, more recently, in the Mindanao peace process, Malaysia is ready and willing to play a facilitating role in addressing conflicts, whenever such a request is made. Malaysia actively participates in peacekeeping missions under the ambit of UN peacekeeping operations and will continue to do so as and when it is needed.
How can greater collaboration among Asia-Pacific nations be encouraged, particularly regarding the issue of the South China Sea?
AMAN: ASEAN continues to expand its strategic relations with our dialogue partners in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. This has been done by actively engaging the other members of ASEAN-led regional institutions in a range of initiatives and cooperative projects designed to build mutual confidence and trust, and strengthen security. There are two aspects to the issues relating to the South China Sea. One aspect is the key issues such as safety of navigation, as well as maintaining peace and stability, that are of common concern to all countries. The other aspect is the territorial and maritime disputes, which can only be discussed by the countries concerned. It is important to draw a distinction between these two aspects.
On territorial disputes, particularly in the South China Sea, I would like to make the following points: firstly, the momentum of dialogue on issues relating to the South China Sea must be sustained. Secondly, all parties must work together to maintain peace, security and stability in the South China Sea through the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Thirdly, ASEAN and China must begin the process of establishing the Code of Conduct as soon as possible. And fourthly, all parties should cease making threatening statements and abstain from taking actions that might raise tensions.
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