A regional meeting of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) kicked off in Jakarta on Wednesday (November 15) with the ongoing conflict in Myanmar and the Israel-Hamas taking center stage in discussions.
Defence ministers from the Asian bloc are attending the 2-day meeting alongside key players in the Indo-Pacific as major powers jostle for regional influence, and as conflicts deepen from Myanmar to the Middle East.
Opening the annual get-together, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto said the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation was deeply saddened by the deteriorating conditions in Gaza, particularly the “horrid” humanitarian situation.
In his opening address, Indonesia’s defence minister Prabowo Subianto urged ASEAN members to find a durable solution to the crisis in Myanmar. Prabowo and his Malaysian counterpart Haji Mohamad Bin Haji Hasan also called for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Prabowo is also hosting partners from countries like the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea who will engage in the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus on Thursday (November 16).
“Indonesia’s stance is clear and firm. We push and call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate setting up of corridors for humanitarian assistance,” he said in his opening remarks.
Visiting Washington this week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo pressed U.S. President Joe Biden to do more to end Israel’s war with Hamas.
Malaysian Defence Haji Mohamad bin Haji Hasan reiterated the calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, saying that Malaysia “condemns terrorism in all forms”, including taking people as hostages and bombing civilian homes.
As chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Prabowo also urged his counterparts to push for concrete progress toward a peaceful solution in Myanmar, which has been riven by chaos and violence since the 2021 coup.
The annual meeting comes as conflict rages in the Middle East and Ukraine and as tensions ratchet up in disputed waters in the South China Sea, where China is accused of aggression against the Philippines, which has U.S. backing and seeks to boost its military ties with Japan.
All ASEAN defense ministers, with the exception of Myanmar, attended Wednesday’s forum, with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet counterparts later in the day.