Malaysia welcomes ASEAN defense ministers for first meeting

Syed Hamid Albar said the May 8-9 meeting in Kuala Lumpur reflected the intention of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to move beyond political and economic issues. The meeting is to be held annually.

The creation of an ASEAN security community was proposed in 2003 as part of efforts to establish an integrated ASEAN community by 2020, but details are still being worked out.

It could involve the creation of an ASEAN peacekeeping force in the long term, but Syed Hamid said the bloc is not ready to do so at this stage.

Indonesia had proposed setting up an ASEAN peacekeeping force by 2012 to intervene in the region's trouble spots, but some members viewed it as premature since ASEAN is not a security or defense organization.

There are also concerns that such a force could be used as a pretext for intervention, Syed Hamid said.

Syed Hamid stressed that regional efforts cannot replace the role of the United Nations in peacekeeping and must be subject to supervision by the world body.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

It already is part of the ASEAN Regional Forum, a 24-member security forum which includes the United States, Australia, China, Japan, India, Russia and the European Union.