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As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has established the ASEAN Community, it will be more constructive and reasonable for the 10-nation bloc to show the world a refreshing and more solid ASEAN role and identity in the regional and global arenas.
In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits earlier, Lao President Bounnhang Vorachit also stressed that in its future development, ASEAN needs to solidify its centrality when dealing with relations with its external partners.
Facing dramatic changes and challenges in East Asia, especially at a time when the world's only superpower has put more political resources and military power in the area under its "pivot to Asia" strategy, it is even more significant for ASEAN to do so in order to maintain regional peace and stability with all its regional partners.
In the midst of such complicated circumstances, recent disputes in the area show that some outside countries have tried to rope in insiders and make mischief in the region to better serve their own needs by sacrificing the interests of ASEAN as a whole, jeopardizing current fruitful cooperation, and possibly resulting in nothing more than a zero-sum confrontation.
To prevent from the weakening of ASEAN's centrality in regional affairs and to promote the development of the ASEAN Community in the post-2015 era, ASEAN itself should stay on alert against those from outside with intent to interfere in the bloc's healthy interaction with its real partners.
All external parties involved in ASEAN's development should follow and respect the "ASEAN Way," which has evolved for almost half a century and features mutual respect, consensus and consideration of all parties' comfort level.
In the past five decades, following the "ASEAN Way," highly effective, frequent and trusted cooperation between ASEAN and its regional partners made the regional bloc the world's sixth largest economy in 2015 and has significantly contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the world's most dynamic region.
It stands to reason, henceforth, that external partners developing their ties with ASEAN should not be at expense of others' interests, as regional development is open and inclusive. Otherwise, ASEAN will be the only victim of aggressive external infiltrators.
Meanwhile, for the ASEAN nations, they know best the real demands of the entity and therefore, they should coordinate their efforts to address the challenges they are facing together so as to strengthen and solidify ASEAN's role in guiding and dominating efforts extended by the external partners, especially by the external powers, to meet ASEAN's true needs.
To maintain peaceful and prosperous development in the region, both ASEAN and its all partners should be aware that peace, development and cooperation rather than confrontation are still the main tenets held by the international community.