EU to join ASEAN's cooperation treaty

By Barbara Mae Dacanay, Bureau Chief
Published in Gulfnews, August 02, 2007, 00:33

Manila: The European Union promised to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (Asean-TAC) that aims to settle military disputes and prevent external invasions within Asia's major regional block.

"Last year, the EU decided to join Asean's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in order to express our appreciation of the EU-Asean relationship. We welcome very much Asean's readiness to make necessary steps to accommodate our accession shortly," the EU said in a statement.

Earlier, the European bloc's foreign policy chief Javier Solana criticised Myanmar's rejection of Asean's plan to create a regional human rights body as a provision of the Asean Charter.

The episode, however, did not dampen the EU's desire to join the TAC. The EU boasts 27 member countries but France is a signatory of the TAC.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka signed up as the newest members of the TAC, bringing its total membership to 24.

The entry of China as a member of the TAC was very important to Asean because of its connotations for peace in the contested South China Sea.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam's claims to the whole of the oil-rich Spratly Archipelago and the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei's claims to some parts of the land mass have led to a potential flashpoint in the region.

China's accession to TAC seems to augur well by way of a code of conduct for the claimants.

Meanwhile, the United States continues to keep a distance from TAC.

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, however, stressed the US' commitment to Asean.

"Our engagement in this part of the world is strong and we are committed to deepening our ties even further in the time ahead. The United States considers relations with Asean as a critical component in its dealings with East Asia as a whole," he said.

Negroponte, however, lauded Asean's plan to create a Charter, adding it is part of the region's democratic ideals.

- With inputs from Estrella Torres, Correspondent



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