Eyes on Koreas as Southeast Asian leaders hold summit

Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh, listens to the opening remarks at the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh, waits for the start of the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Foreign Ministers, and country representatives, left to right, Laos Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saleumxay Kommasith, unidentified official, Myanmar's Union Minister for International Cooperation, U Kyaw Tin, Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Alan Peter Cayetano, Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh, Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Thailand's Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai, unidentified official, Cambodia's Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Prak Sokhonn, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Security, Wiranto, Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno Marsudi, and ASEAN Secretary-General, Lim Jock Hoi, pose for a group photo during the 17th ASEAN Political-Security Community Council Meeting on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Philippine's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano, left, shakes hands Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, ahead of the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Philippine's Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter Cayetano, right, shakes hands with Myanmar's Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin, ahead of the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Singapore's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, delivers the opening address at the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano speaks to reporters during a media briefing on the sidelines of the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Singapore. Kuwait on Wednesday expelled the Philippines ambassador and recalled its own envoy from Manila over a growing diplomatic dispute sparked by complaints of the abuse of Filipina housemaids and workers in the country. (AP Photo/Kiko Rosario)
Myanmar's Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin, waits for the start of the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Laos Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith listens to the opening remarks at the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting at the 32nd ASEAN Summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

SINGAPORE — Southeast Asian leaders will discuss economic cooperation and Myanmar's refugee crisis at a summit in Singapore, but much of their attention will be focused on the history unfolding on the Korean Peninsula.

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in Singapore on Friday to affirm a common vision amid happenings beyond their 10-member group.

"We do so at a momentous time in the world, many things are happening both within and beyond ASEAN," Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in an opening address. "I think it's all the more important that we remain united, that we project a common purpose."

It was a clear reference to Friday's landmark meeting between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and South Korea's Moon Jae-In. ASEAN has long advocated for dialogue and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Southeast Asian nations have been wary of the North's nuclear program and the tensions it sparked, but continue to hosts its embassies and welcome its presence at a regional forum.

"In the past, ASEAN member states have provided good offices for talks, and the budding rapprochement between Seoul and Pyongyang is a welcome development," said Tang Siew Mun, head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

There has been speculation that a meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in the coming weeks could possibly be held in Southeast Asia. Thailand has offered to host the meeting and South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo reported that Singapore is on the shortlist of locations.

At a working dinner with Southeast Asian leaders on Friday, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said ASEAN needs to grow more resilient to tackle cross-boundary threats such as terrorism, climate change and cybersecurity.

"We do not expect to resolve all the issues within the one-year span of our chairmanship, but we do hope to prompt a productive discussion and develop a consensus among the ASEAN partners on the overall approach," he added.

The leaders will gather Saturday for a retreat, where analysts said they are expected to discuss free trade and Myanmar's refugee crisis. The South China sea, where the bloc is currently negotiating a code of conduct with China, is likely to be less prominent.

In addition to Singapore, the ASEAN members are Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and the Philippines.

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