Subject: ASEAN agrees in principle to expand membership to include ET

Wednesday August 1, 7:17 PM

ASEAN agrees in principle to expand membership

(Kyodo) _ Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations discussed and agreed in principle to enlarge its membership to include East Timor, an ASEAN diplomat told Kyodo News on Wednesday.

"In principle, the ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to expand its membership, but it only applies to Timor Leste," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, referring to the country by its official name.

Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand were not satisfied with the initiative to enlarge ASEAN's membership, but the three countries agreed to push it if it involves only East Timor, the diplomat said.

The three countries expressed concern that expanding the membership may cause instability in the 10-member grouping, the diplomat said.

The ministers discussed the issue at their annual meeting in Manila on Monday.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who attended the session, said "times have changed."

"Everything is moving ahead. We have had no ASEAN Community in the past, but we have it now," the minister told Kyodo News.

ASEAN officials said East Timor has expressed its willingness to join ASEAN in about four or five years.

A provision on expanding ASEAN membership is spelled out in the ASEAN Charter which is now being drafted and agreed in principle by the foreign ministers. The final version is expected to be signed at the leaders' summit in Singapore in November.

ASEAN was originally formed by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in 1967. Brunei joined the grouping in 1984, and Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar were accepted as members in the 1990s.

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