Asean is in a state of flux with the transfer of the chair from Cambodia to Brunei in late November and the handover of the secretary-general post to Le Luong Minh of Vietnam, who was formally sworn in last week. Mr Minh is replacing Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand.
Among the many issues commanding the attention of Mr Minh and the regional body as a whole are the launching of the Asean Economic Community in 2015 and steering Asean toward a unified stance on disputes over territories in the South China Sea. China claims most of the sea, including a vital shipping lane and resource-rich areas. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have overlapping claims in the area, as does Taiwan.
To his credit, the incoming secretary-general has already made it clear he intends to make resolving the disputes a priority. In Jakarta on Wednesday, he indicated Asean is anxious to bring a resolution to this highly contentious matter and will be pressing China for talks.