U.S. pledges nearly $300 million security funding for Southeast Asia

U.S. pledges nearly $300 million security funding for Southeast Asia

U.S. pledges nearly $300 million security funding for Southeast Asia

The "table-top" exercises at a Singapore naval base came ahead of the first naval drills between the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Beijing, scheduled for October.

A code of conduct between Beijing and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to govern behaviour in the strategic South China Sea has been years in the making.

His Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, called the working text "good news" and "great progress".

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha expressed fears about the negative impact of recent USA trade restrictions, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi indicated that Beijing will continue to fight the trade war initiated by Washington.

"The United States is a Pacific nation, and we remain committed to ASEAN centrality under our Indo-Pacific strategy", he said.

For her part, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (RoK) Kang Kyung-wha stressed that President Moon Jae-in's "New Southern Policy" places ASEAN at the centre of cooperation priorities, with a committee set up to further develop the initiative.

Meanwhile the U.S. - traditionally the dominant military power in the area - has more frequently carried out patrols aimed at ensuring freedom of navigation.

"Asean is the No. 1 destination for USA investment in Asia, and Asean member states have increased their investment into the U.S. by over 1,300 per cent between 2004 and 2016", he added.

The ministers also agreed to "fully tap the opportunities afforded by new technologies and innovation arising from the digital revolution", though they stressed the need to stay responsive to emerging issues, such as non-traditional security threats and environmental challenges.

The agreement is the first step in solving various territorial disputes in South China Sea.

Some of the ministers, however, were expected to repeat their concerns over China's transformation of seven disputed reefs into man-made islands, including three with runways, which now resemble small cities armed with weapons systems, including surface-to-air missiles.

"At the recent COC talks in Changsha, China, in June, Asean member states and China arrived at a single draft COC negotiating text, which will be a living document and the basis of future COC negotiations", Balakhrishnan said on Thursday.

Concerns over ongoing nuclear and missile activity in North Korea surged after The Washington Post reported Tuesday that US intelligence officials believe Pyongyang is continuing to build new missiles in the same research facility it used to build intercontinental missiles capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States.

Together, these make up the open, inclusive and Asean-centric regional architecture that has supported peace and stability in the region, said Mr Lee.

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