Southeast Asian nations urged to secure borders


The United States wants to help Southeast Asian countries boost border security to block terrorists from sheltering in the region, a U.S. State Department official said Monday.

“We’re trying to make efforts to do that and it’s a big priority,” said David Asher, a senior adviser for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Asher said that U.S. authorities would work with Southeast Asian military and coast guard forces to improve border patrols — if governments sought such cooperation.

“It’s a consensual initiative, not something that’s unilateral,” Asher told reporters on the sidelines of a conference of security officials and academics in Kuala Lumpur. “The more we work together, the more likely we’ll be to succeed and stop some sort of terrible action from occurring in the future.”

Asher praised countries such as Malaysia for responding “impressively” to the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, but added that all governments should “work much harder” to foil potential security threats.

Separately at the conference, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged countries in the Asia-Pacific region to build security through talks, not bigger armories.

“Military stakes are being raised dangerously in the region and around the world,” Abdullah said in a speech to open the Asia-Pacific Round-table, an annual gathering organized by Malaysia’s Institute of Strategic and International Studies.

“Overwhelming military power will not solve all problems or yield the security we seek,” Abdullah said. “It will not deter or protect against terror, instead it merely aggravates suspicion and tensions between countries.”

He cited tensions between mainland China and Taiwan and between North Korea and South Korea.

Peace on the Korean peninsula would have a better chance “if talks are imbued with a less antagonistic and more conciliatory atmosphere,” Abdullah said. Relations between Bijing and Taipei would improve if there was “less provocation … including by third parties,” which Abdullah did not name.