NATIONAL

[Diplomatic circuit] Former Indonesian foreign minister zeros in on significance of ASEAN

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Nov 18, 2019 - 21:18
  • Updated : Nov 18, 2019 - 21:18

Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations played an important role in three aspects -- relationship among member states, their international status and the economy.

Natalegawa was in South Korea to launch the Korean edition of his book “Does ASEAN Matter?” last week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ties between Seoul and ASEAN.

The launch comes ahead of the special commemorative summit between South Korea and 10 ASEAN member countries in Busan next week to build public interest and understanding about ASEAN.

“ASEAN has played a key role in at least three ways. One, in terms of transforming the relationship among countries of Southeast Asia. … There was a period when Southeast Asia was marked by class deficit, difficult bilateral relations, animosities, tensions. But through ASEAN we have managed to transform the class deficit into strategic trust,” Natalegawa said at the book’s launch in central Seoul on Nov 12. 

Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa speaks during the launch of the Korean edition of his book “Does ASEAN Matter” in central Seoul on Nov 12. (ASEAN-Korea Centre)

“I am not pretending as if we don’t have problems or challenges amongst us. At the very least ASEAN has enabled countries of the region to manage the potential for conflict, and address them in a good way.”

He added the intergovernmental organization has enabled to Southeast Asian countries to “earn centrality” compared to the past when they were “pulled apart by tensions beyond their control” on top of economic transformation.

Natalegawa served as Indonesia’s Foreign Minister between 2009 and 2014 and is currently a member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Level Advisory Board on Mediation and on the United Nations president of the General Assembly’s team of external advisers.

Through his book Natalegawa emphasizes the strategic partnership between South Korea and ASEAN for the organization to sustain its value the midst of growing global uncertainty.

“Diversity defines ASEAN. If you are looking for a uniform characteristic that brings us together, you won’t find it, because our diversity is our identity. ... We have what’s called unity in diversity,” he told The Korea Herald.

“What has unified us in the past is being able to take our diversity and differences as our strength,” he said, adding that leaders should be willing to see the broad picture, and not be too transactional.

Natalegawa noted the special Korea-ASEAN summit is “tremendously important” for both parties, given the geopolitical interests.

“It is important for Southeast Asian countries to demonstrate their support for Korea’s efforts on the Korean Peninsula. Other perspectives are economy, especially digital economy,” he said to The Korea Herald.

Natalegawa added ASEAN should proactively approach China and India for them to join the highly anticipated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership rather than taking a passive stance. 

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)