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Conflict stories ignore ASEAN’s real issues

By Ding Gang (Global Times)

08:43, September 07, 2012

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited China on Tuesday and Wednesday. One of her main topics is the South China Sea issue. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, said that he was worried about too much attention being paid to the issue, cautioning it would prove counterproductive.

So what should deserve more attention from Southeast Asian countries?

The 44th ASEAN economic ministers meetings were held in Siem Reap, Cambodia on August 27. They were of particular importance to ASEAN, because one of the topics in the meetings was how to realize the goal of establishing the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. However, compared to the ASEAN foreign ministers meetings in Phnom Penh in July, it seemed unimportant, especially for the Western media.

I hardly saw any Western journalists at the meetings, and there was little coverage on them by major Western media outlets.

Comparatively, the foreign ministers meetings were crowded by reporters from Western countries due to their focus on the South China Sea.

Of course, one or two reports on the Siem Reap meetings by Western journalists could be found. But their focus was not these meetings, but the July meetings. They still made a fuss over the failure to reach an agreement in Phnom Penh.

The Washington Post ran a report on its website from Siem Reap on August 28, totally overlooking the topics of the Siem Reap meetings, as seen from the title "ASEAN struggles to cope with rival claims in the South China Sea." The Economist recently published an article titled "ASEAN in crisis: Divided we stagger." It seems the biggest problem now for ASEAN is how to unite to deal with challenges from China.

I talked with Pitsuwan about the problem. I asked him whether the Siem Reap meetings were less important than the meetings in Phnom Penh. He said that although the topics in Siem Reap couldn't attract attention, they were very important to the development of ASEAN and it was a good thing to sincerely study ASEAN's problems in a silent environment.


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