ASEAN LEADERS CONVENE TO DISCUSS COMMUNITY REALIZATION, DEVELOPMENT BEYOND 2015

KUALA LUMPUR — Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered here on Saturday to discuss the establishment of the landmark ASEAN Community by Dec. 31 this year and map out a plan for its further development to 2025.

“We are all here in Kuala Lumpur at a historic moment for the 10-nation association. Tomorrow, we will formally declare the establishment of the ASEAN Community on Dec. 31, 2015,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in his opening remarks.

This marks “the culmination of a decades-long effort to integrate, to cohere and to forge ahead together,” he said.

Under the theme “Our People, Our Community, Our Vision,” the summit, the 27th of its kind, is expected to unveil the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community, signalling the formal establishment of the community by Dec. 31, 2015.

The envisaged ASEAN Community will cover some 600 million people with a combined GDP of 2 trillion U.S. dollars.

The 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together will also be endorsed at the end of the summit and related meetings.

ASEAN has maintained the high ambitions it set in the three community blueprints — economic, political-security and socio-cultural with “impressive growth,” Najib said.

The summit is convened at a time when ASEAN nations are facing economic downturn, currency devaluation, threats of terrorism and human-trafficking.

Created in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

As one of the five original founding members of ASEAN, Malaysia took over the rotating chairmanship with an aim to accelerate economic integration, strengthen the institutional framework and make ASEAN more inclusive.

“ASEAN is increasingly seen not only as integral to the global economic and security architecture, but also as a region of tremendous opportunity,” Najib said.

The bloc has advanced and risen together the ASEAN way over its evolution with emphasis on community and consensus-building, non-violence and moderation.

In charting its future course to 2025, ASEAN aspired to deepen the integration process to realize a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN Community, he added.

Najib also condemned terrorist attacks that have shaken the world in recent weeks in his opening address at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

“The perpetrators of these cowardly and barbaric acts do not represent any race, religion or creed, nor should we allow them to claim to do so. They are terrorists and should be confronted as such with the full force of the law,” said Razak.

He assured fellow leaders at the meeting that Malaysia stood with them “against this new evil that blasphemes against the name of Islam,” calling for new solutions to the problems of extremism which have cast a shadow to the entire world.

“We pray that a more moderate and peaceful world will one day consign such outrages and murderous ideologies to the past.”

The arrival of top world leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and US President Barack Obama, will also set the stage for crucial discussions on Sunday that will end with ASEAN chairmanship being handed over to Laos. PNA/Xinhua