Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's statement at the Press Conference by the ASEAN Chair on the 33rd ASEAN Summit on Thursday, 15 November 2018.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here today. It has been two long days of meetings – in fact, two and a half. We have had fruitful discussions with our fellow ASEAN Leaders, as well as ASEAN’s key partners. We have had a busy year as chairman of ASEAN this year. I have circulated an infographic, which compiles all the key initiatives launched this past one year. It includes the flagship ASEAN Smart Cities Network, of course.
Some of our colleagues have suggested that Singapore help shepherd the ASEAN Smart Cities Network beyond 2018 and Singapore is happy to do so. We will work closely with the next Chairs towards enhancing the smart city projects and increase the number of participating cities.
The various Chairman’s Statements, some of which have already been issued – most of which have already been issued – detail the key discussions and outcomes of this Summit. You should have seen them. Let me highlight just a few points.
On the RCEP, glad that substantial progress has been made in the negotiations. Now we are in the final stage of negotiations and there is strong political commitment to conclude them in 2019. When concluded, the RCEP will be the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for 45% of the world population, 40% of global trade, and one third of global GDP.
On the Korean Peninsula, we welcomed the three Inter-Korean Summits held thus far, as well as the summit between the US and the DPRK in Singapore in June. We expressed support for all efforts to secure the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
We also had a good exchange of views on the South China Sea. ASEAN welcomed the progress made on the implementation of practical measures under the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. This is the DOC. It has helped build trust and prevent miscalculations on the ground. We look forward to the early conclusion of an effective COC. You would have noted the agreement among ASEAN Member States and China on a Single Draft COC Negotiating Text, and also, we have agreed to complete the first reading of the Single Draft COC Negotiating Text by 2019. Negotiations are still in their early stages, and much work remains ahead.
On Rakhine State, we note a recent announcement by Myanmar and Bangladesh to commence repatriation for the first batch of verified refugees by mid-November. Myanmar has also invited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management. This is the AHA Centre, to despatch a needs assessment team to Rakhine State to facilitate the repatriation process. ASEAN is ready to play an active and positive role in the situation, and will support efforts by all parties to work towards a comprehensive and durable solution.
On regional cooperation and engagement, various concepts and formulations have been proposed for what is now, starting to be called, an Indo-Pacific region. Within ASEAN, we also discussed the initiative to develop ASEAN’s collective cooperation in this region. ASEAN has and will continue to study the various proposals closely. Any proposal should support ASEAN unity and centrality, articulate a coherent economic engagement strategy with our region, espouse a rules-based world order anchored upon international law, and also an open, transparent and inclusive regional architecture. The proposals should also demonstrate concrete mutual benefits, and complement ASEAN’s own initiatives, for example the Masterplan for ASEAN Connectivity 2025 and the ASEAN Smart Cities Network. So these are the criteria by which we will assess our response to initiatives under the various ideas which have variously been named Asia Pacific frameworks.
Overall, we were pleased to note the progress under Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship, and Singapore particularly appreciated greatly the support from fellow ASEAN Leaders as well as our external partners. And we’re looking forward to the next meeting in Bangkok, Thailand next year.
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