Indonesia assumed the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Sunday, with Indonesian President Joko Widodo saying that the ten-member bloc should not be a proxy for other powers and must resist allowing geopolitical pressures to create a new Cold War in Asia.
Widodo takes on the leadership at a time of rising tensions as China and the United States compete for influence in the strategically vital region, with governments concerned about being forced to choose sides.
Speaking at a handover ceremony in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, Widodo said, “ASEAN must become a peaceful region, and an anchor for global stability, consistently uphold international law and not be a proxy to any powers.”
“ASEAN must be a dignified region, uphold the values of humanity and democracy. ASEAN should not let current geopolitical dynamics turn into a new Cold War in our region,” he declared.
Cambodia handed over the chair after a year that will likely be most remembered for its failure to make good on a bold pledge to drive forward a peace initiative in crisis-torn Myanmar.
Nonetheless it was all smiles as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen passed on the leadership role of the ten-member grouping to Widodo, the transfer symbolized by the handing over of a gavel.
The brief ceremony was held at the end of the annual round of summits between the ASEAN leaders and regional dialogue partners.
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