Foreign ministers from ASEAN, Japan, China and South Korea began a meeting Friday in central Japan's ancient city Kyoto to discuss whether to allow India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to participate in an East Asia Summit (EAS) in Kuala Lumpur in December this year.
The informal meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the three northeast Asian countries is expected to discuss the "concept and modalities" of the EAS.
Based on three selection criteria set by ASEAN, India's participation in the EAS is almost certain. Australia and New Zealand, however, may first have to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation or TAC, a non-aggression pact ratified by all 10 ASEAN members.
The ASEAN foreign ministers agreed at their informal retreat last month in Mactan, Philippines, that only those countries, with substantive relations with ASEAN, full dialogue partner status and have acceded to TAC, can join the first EAS.
The foreign ministers also agreed during the Mactan retreat that ASEAN alone will decide the future members of all subsequent summits "to ensure that ASEAN remains in the driver's seat of the EAS process."
Lao Foreign Minister Somsavat Lengsavad, who chaired the informal meeting on the sidelines of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting 7th Foreign Ministers' Meeting, said ASEAN foreign
ministers will inform Japan, China and South Korea of the outcome of their informal retreat in Mactan.
"There is no particular agenda," Somsavat Lengsavad said, adding the meeting will discuss how to transform the region into an East Asian community.
In the ASEAN-plus-three summit in Vientiane last November, the leaders of the countries supported ASEAN's decision to convene the first EAS in Malaysia in December. Japan proposed hosting this informal meeting in Kyoto.
The foreign ministers are expected to decide and formalize the membership of the first EAS during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Vientiane in July. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia,
Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.