By Michinobu Yanagisawa / Japan News Assistant Editor BANGKOK — Surin Pitsuwan, former secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and former Thai foreign minister, called on China to be more engaged in easing tensions escalated by North Korea, at the annual board meeting of the Asia News Network in Bangkok on Thursday.
Surin gave the ANN meeting’s opening address, titled “Evolving Asia and the Future of ASEAN.” The ANN is a regional media alliance comprising mainly English-language daily newspapers from about 20 countries in Asia, including The Japan News.
During the session, Surin said China “always says that it does not have enough control” of Pyongyang. “The rest [of the world] would [hope] to see China more engaged in the issue of the Korean Peninsula and North Korea,” he said.
Regarding the North Korea issue, Surin emphasized that the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) — Asia’s only region-wide security platform — could do more. He pointed out that he had personally played an active role in accepting Pyongyang’s participation in the ARF in 2000 when he was Thailand’s foreign minister.
The ARF should have its own envoy on the Korean Peninsula, Surin told ANN journalists, saying that as a minister, he had presented a proposal about this to China and the United States and received positive reactions from them. “North Korea is not going to concede to China, Japan, Russia or the United States. But it could give some signal to an ARF special envoy [being useful],” he stressed.
Surin also talked about the prospect of a long-delayed “code of conduct” that ASEAN has sought to conclude with China for the disputed South China Sea since the 1990s. He stressed that “ASEAN needs more unity” in order for a code of conduct to be a meaningful mechanism to ease tensions.