Singapore FM praises new Asia Cooperation Dialogue forum


Singapore’s foreign minister on Monday praised a newly created forum for Asian dialogue, saying it could bring together regional organizations and promote Asian integration.

The 17-member Asia Cooperation Dialogue “if properly nurtured could eventually bridge the gap between … regional groupings in Asia,” Shanmugam Jayakumar said in an address to Parliament.

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue was spearheaded by Thailand last month in a one-day meeting among member nations. It’s supposed to serve as an informal forum for addressing continent-wide problems.

Some observers say the region’s myriad trade, military and diplomatic groupings often pursue varying — and even competing — agendas.

Jayakumar told Parliament that there is “minimal interaction” between such Asian groupings as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Without offering specifics, Jayakumar said the Asia Cooperation Dialogue could help link the various groupings but “should avoid duplicating the work of existing international organizations.”

Countries taking part in the Dialogue are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, mainland China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.