Asean has decided to use its homegrown mechanisms to ensure regional peace while remaining neutral amid global conflicts.
Usana Berananda, Director-General of the Asean Affairs Department, on Thursday said that Asean officials met during the 56th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Ministerial Meeting and Post Ministerial Conference from July 11 to 14 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
There, Asean determined it will use its Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and the Treaty of Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) to remain neutral, she said.
She said the AOIP was tabled during the meeting so members could use it to build cooperation with partners to reduce confrontations in the region.
The AOIP is an affirmation of Asean's role in maintaining peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. It aims to push open and inclusive dialogue on maritime, economic and connectivity issues.
Ms Usana said that currently, many Asean countries have their own Indo-Pacific strategy, which could be confrontational. Using the AOIP would ensure cooperation is inclusive without marginalising countries that may not have their own strategy, she noted.
The cooperation is also based on mutual prosperity in the region, she said. "We hope that our AOIP will be the heart that builds trust and cooperation while reducing confrontation and competition in the region."
On the issue of nuclear weapons, she said there is growing concern over their potential use amid the current geopolitical climate. The SEANWFZ treaty was tabled during the meeting to serve as a framework on how the region can be free of nuclear weapons, she said.
She said there were attempts by Asean members to invite nuclear-capable countries to sign a protocol attached to the treaty as a way to deter the use of nuclear arms in the region.
"Some countries, like China, have shown their readiness to sign the protocol attached at the end of this treaty," Ms Usana said. "Members have been talking about the details of the signing process. The experts are consulting [for] more details."
She said Indonesia, as current chair of Asean, has shown interest in escalating the process during its tenure.
"If China signs, it will be good motivation for other countries with nuclear weapons to sign as well," she said. "It will help build confidence that these countries will not use nuclear weapons in the region, which will help create more regional stability."