ASEAN and peace
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - August 11, 2017 - 4:00pm

As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrates its 50th year, have peace and stability been achieved within and outside the region?

Sadly, conflict remains across and within the member countries. While membership has expanded, the 11 Southeast Asian countries still have to effectively integrate their political, economic, socio-cultural, and military agenda as a region to maximize the strength and potentials of ASEAN.

While these Southeast Asian countries share many historical and cultural linkages, an ASEAN regional identity has yet to be realized.

ASEAN celebrates its 50th year in the midst of real military threats from China and North Korea. China's military installation buildup and North Korea's missile launches threaten not only this region but the rest of the world. Recently, ASEAN issued a strong statement addressing these two important issues.

Various approaches have also been employed to persuade North Korea to stop its missile launches. Diplomatic steps have been taken, economic sanctions as well. Joint military drills have been conducted but the military option is one that the whole world hopes will not be implemented at all as this could lead to direct confrontation, affecting not only several countries or this region but the whole world.

Despite the two mentioned steps, a highly militarized North Korea announced that its missiles can now reach and hit Guam, a clear protectorate of America. With more serious economic sanctions aimed to weaken North Korea's capacity to have resources for more military buildup, will North Korea now retaliate and make their threat of missile attack a reality?

The Cold War may have ended but the present military alliances show China, North Korea, Russia, and their allies on one side; and Japan, South Korea, the US, and their allies on the other side.

The Philippines is geographically located at the gateway to the rest of Asia.  Unlike previous leaders who were closely allied to the US, the present leadership appears more friendly towards China. In the event of any serious actual military conflict, which side will the Philippines take?

According to one Japanese political scientist, China has embarked on a significant Loan Diplomacy, lending or granting huge infrastructure funds to many countries, including the Philippines. Many of the infrastructures, the political analyst observed, involved opening roads and bridges in the Chinese loan/grant recipient countries that have locations that would allow easy, shorter entry and access as well as land, sea, and air transport and travel to and from China. The Chinese leadership has been clear about establishing their presence, including military presence, throughout this region and the rest of the world.

On its 50th year, will the ASEAN continue to work for peace, within their countries, within the region, and throughout the world?

In the midst of all these recent developments that threaten national, regional, and global peace and stability, let us all unite and pray for God to silence guns and halt bombs and missiles, and for His peace and healing instead to reign all throughout.

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