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Sunday, December 11, 2005

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Rows may overshadow Asian summits

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Rows may overshadow Asian summits Rows may overshadow Asian summits
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

East Asia's leaders are gathering in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur for talks which could shape the economic future for half the world's population.

However, the situation in Burma and an ongoing row between Japan and its neighbours could overshadow attempts to make trade deals at the Asean summit.

The next three days will see a dizzying series of meetings.

Leaders of Asean's 10 south-east Asian countries will also meet premiers from India, China, Japan and South Korea.

Then on Wednesday, the inaugural East Asia summit will bring them all together with Australia and New Zealand as well. Even Russia's President Vladimir Putin is here on the sidelines.

Japan scolded

There is much talk of free trade agreements, of economic cooperation and integration.

There have been calls for the region to work together to develop new oil refineries and energy sources.

On Wednesday the16 participating nations are due to sign a pledge to fight bird flu.

But all that risks being eclipsed.

Asean's leaders say they have secured an agreement to send a delegation to Burma which they hope will meet the country's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

That may be enough to allow them to focus on other issues.

But Japan has again received a telling-off from both China and South Korea over its leader's continued visits to a shrine where war criminals are among those buried, so the annual three-way talks between north-east Asia's big players seem fated not to go ahead.
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