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U.S. to accede to ASEAN nonaggression treaty.

PHUKET, Thailand, July 19 Kyodo

The United States will sign this week a nonaggression treaty with ASEAN, an ASEAN diplomat said Sunday.

''This is significant for ASEAN, because it indicates the U.S.'s commitment to a deeper level of engagement with ASEAN and to the ideals of the regional block,'' the diplomat from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations told Kyodo News in an interview.

In a recent letter to Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation ''will further strengthen our substantive ties.''

Turkey will also likely accede to the treaty later this year.

There is also a need to amend the treaty to allow the European Union to join, another ASEAN diplomat said.

ASEAN foreign ministers are to adopt new guidelines for accession to the treaty during their meeting in Thailand, including a plan to introduce a ''flexible moratorium'' on partners that wish to join, fearing that letting more countries accede to the treaty might slow down the decision process.

''With 15 non-Southeast Asian states already in the TAC, ASEAN's room to maneuver has clearly been severely restricted,'' ASEAN documents obtained by Kyodo News say.

A case in point is the slow processing of the Third Protocol proposed by the 10 ''Southeast Asian High Contracting Parties,'' all member countries of ASEAN, to amend the treaty to allow a non-state such as the European Union to join.

Amending the treaty requires concurrence of all 15 non-Southeast Asian states as well.

The documents note accession of Turkey ''can stimulate other countries to approach the ASEAN foreign ministers for the same favorable consideration for them to accede to the TAC.''

''(But) if this is the case, ASEAN would be in a serious dilemma: if more are accepted, the ASEAN side will be further outnumbered by non-Southeast Asian states, if they are turned (down), they would be disappointed and unhappy with ASEAN.''

To avoid problems if Turkey joins, the documents say ASEAN foreign ministers can introduce a flexible moratorium in which dialogue partners and major powers that have expressed interest in the treaty will be encouraged, but other countries will have to wait for the time being.

Still, other countries will be assured they can work with ASEAN in many ways, without having to accede to the treaty.

The treaty was amended in 1987 to allow non-Southeast Asian states to accede to it.

So far 15 countries have joined -- Papua New Guinea, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, France, East Timor, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and North Korea.

Concluded by the then six ASEAN member-states at their first summit in Bali in 1976, the treaty is considered one of the association's defining documents.

It has two main parts -- the first commits its adherents to certain principles of inter-state behavior, including respect for the independence, sovereignty and noninterference in internal affairs of one another; the second pertains to the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Jul 20, 2009
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