Asian leaders pledge stronger efforts against terrorism

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Southeast Asian leaders agreed Monday to jointly fight terrorism after deadly bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines, but complained that travel warnings issued by many nations were scaring away tourists and hurting their economies.

Instead of the usual genteel rounds of golf and trade talk at their annual summits, the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations dealt with the seriousness of new terrorist and nuclear threats.

They agreed with leaders of China, Japan and South Korea -- who also joined the two-day conference in Phnom Penh -- that North Korea should scrap its recently revealed nuclear weapons program.

"The fact that everyone shared the same understanding will be a big help in settling the issue in the future," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said.

Security is the tightest ever for an ASEAN conference, with 5,000 military and police deployed. Streets were barricaded around the conference site, a glitzy hotel, to protect the 1,000 delegates -- the largest international meeting in modern Cambodian history.

ASEAN leaders hope to convince the world that they are serious about protecting the region from a growing terrorist threat. The bombings last month on the Indonesian resort of Bali killed nearly 200 people. Separate attacks in the Philippines soon after killed 22.

The leaders acknowledged it will be difficult to curtail terrorist activity.

"We have been living in such an easy, comfortable climate for so many years," said Ong Keng Yong, the incoming ASEAN secretary-general. "To get someone to suddenly switch and get very strict and look at every dustbin and parked car is a different culture for us."

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