Tue, 27 Mar 2007
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said here on Monday the East Asia Forum would not discuss new membership, but would rather focus on internal consolidation.

"In the past two meetings the number of participants remained unchanged at 16 countries - 10 from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six from other countries," he said.

"We are now on a stage of consolidation and there will be no more talks on new membership," he said when asked about the US interest in the TAC as a requirement for joining the EAF.

The minister said Asean knew about other countries interested in joining the EAF such as Russia and the European Union. However, those countries have developed an understanding about the present composition, he said.

"There has been no interest of the US in joining the EAF," he said.

He said the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) had become more attractive to draw the interest of many countries including France, Timor Leste and the EU in joining it.

"We hailed their interest in the TAC that would cause them to become committed to respecting the code of conduct for relations among the countries in the region," he said.

He said the higher the number of countries participating in the TAC, the stronger peace would be in the Asia Pacific region.

The 1st East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur in December 2005 discussed economic, political and international issues including international terrorism, sea security and contagious diseases.

The discussions on these issues continued in the Philippines in January 2007.

The six other countries participating in the EAF meetings include China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Non-Asean member countries interested in joining the EAF have to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), have been Asean partners and had contributed significantly to Asean.

A US foreign ministry official has said that the US is currently studying various legal and policy issues in connection with the possibility of the superpower to join the TAC.(*)



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