Australia's clinching of the elevated partnership was a symbolic
win for Canberra in getting ahead of China in securing the first
such deal with the Southeast Asia region, which has become a
strategic battleground between Beijing and Washington.
The announcement was made by Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah
during a news conference at which he was asked about Myanmar's
future attendance of ASEAN events, after its junta chief Min
Aung Hlaing, who led a coup in February, was excluded from a
series of Asian summits this week.
"Myanmar is an integral part of the ASEAN family and their
membership has not been questioned," he said, asked if Myanmar
could even be expelled from the bloc.
"ASEAN will always be there for Myanmar and we have continued to
offer help through the implementation of the five-point
Min Aung Hlaing was sidelined over his failure to implement that
"consensus", which he agreed with ASEAN in April, committing to
ending hostilities, start dialogue and facilitate humanitarian
aid and mediation efforts by a special ASEAN envoy.
"For this meeting, we have given Myanmar space while firmly
upholding the principles enshrined in the ASEAN charter
including that of non-interference," the sultan said.
Speaking at a separate news conference, Malaysian Foreign
Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said it was unclear if Myanmar would
join future ASEAN meetings and stressed the no-show this week
was Myanmar's call.
Asked if it would continue to be part of ASEAN events, Saifuddin
Abdullah said: "That's the one million dollar question which I
(Reporting by Ain Bandial in Bandar Seri Begawan and in A.
Ananthalakshmi and Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpir; Writing by
Martin Petty; Editing by James Pearson)
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