Neutrality and pacifism cornerstones of ASEAN WAY

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Editorial by Michelangelo Pipan

Vicepresident - Italy-ASEAN Association

ASEAN countries intend to remain neutral, continuing to pursue balance based on equidistance and proactive economic diplomacy 

In the aftermath of the summit with the US, ASEAN remains reluctant to take sides, to let itself be drawn into geopolitical disputes, faithful to its founding principles as if to extend the Asean Way that accompanied its expansion beyond its borders. The ASEAN countries intend to remain neutral, continuing to pursue equilibrium based on equidistance and proactive economic diplomacy (see RCEP) - which for two years have led them to be China's main trading partner, overtaking the USA, in third place, and the EU, which has risen in second place.

Biden asked the summit to remedy the lack of attention of the Trump presidency. Objective achieved from the formal point of view, without however removing ASEAN from the comfort zone intended not to spoil the friendship with the great powers.The final Joint Vision Statement seems entirely written on the Asian side of the Pacific: repeated references to ASEAN's cornerstones of neutrality, pacifism and the Nuclear Free Zone, to the peaceful settlement of disputes, to the commitment to regional peace and stability. In the chapter on the South China Sea - significantly titled "Promotion of Maritime Cooperation" - China is not mentioned and quietly advocates the peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law. The short section on Ukraine merely reaffirms - specifying: as for all nations - respect for sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity, calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. 

In the capitals, ASEAN leaders receive applause: the Association must remain neutral; the RCEP remains the reference context; The Indo Pacific Economic Partnership, not yet better defined as a US initiative, "it is absolutely not comparable".

Europe and Italy have an interest in the consolidation of intermediate powers that contribute to the regular functioning of globalization, which will have to resume along better meditated and governed guidelines. In this context, the ASEAN countries are confirmed - also as a springboard for the other Asian markets - natural interlocutors for Italy. A great opportunity for our country, its industrial districts and its natural export vocation.

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