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Indonesia is hosting a gathering of Southeast Asian defence ministers this week, along with key players in the Indo-Pacific region. The ASEAN bloc aims to emphasize its centrality amidst the ongoing global crises. The meeting, starting on Wednesday, coincides with conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, as well as escalating tensions in the South China Sea.
The forum is crucial as major powers vie for influence in the region. Indonesia’s defence minister and presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, stressed the importance of non-alignment, expressing concerns about the escalating rivalry between the U.S. and China. “Competition is good. But competition should not deteriorate into a zero-sum game,” Prabowo, said ahead of the defence ministers’ meeting.
For years, Washington and Beijing have sought the favor of ASEAN, a region comprising approximately 660 million people with a collective gross domestic product surpassing $3.2 trillion. However, the intense rivalry between the two major powers has raised concerns among ASEAN members.
Prabowo received ASEAN’s defence ministers and passed the ASEAN baton over to Laos’ Defence Minister Chansamone Chanyalath during a handover ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The discussions will expand on Thursday to include Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, and Australia and are expected to cover a range of issues, including the situation in Gaza, Ukraine, and China’s actions in the South China Sea.
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