Veteran diplomat tells Duterte to stop joking about Mongolia and Turkey joining Asean

President Duterte and Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat held bilateral talks in Beijing.

On the sidelines of the first One Belt, One Roadsummit in Beijing last week, President Duterte met with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat, prime minister of Mongolia.

In his press conference upon arrival in Davao City May 16, Duterte said he is sponsoring the application for membership of Turkey and Mongolia into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Philippines is this year’s chair of the meetings of Asean, which coincides with the golden anniversary of the regional organization.

“Ay oo, kasi nandiyan ka sa ano…By the way, I had a talk with the President Erdoğan and the Prime Minister of—si Erdenebat sa Mongolia. They also want to… Gusto nila na magsali sa ASEAN. And since I was—I am the chair, ang Pilipinas ngayon, they wanted me to sponsor their entry and I said, “Yes, why not?,” he said.

Duterte said he mentioned Mongolia and Turkey’s desire to be a member of Asean to Myanmar State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, who was also in the Beijing meeting. Suu Kyi’s reply, according to Duterte: “Have you considered the physical—the geography whether they are part of the ASEAN or not?”

Mongolia and Turkey are not in Southeast Asia.

Duterte said, “They are. I would say that they are. Turkey seems to be ambivalent to whether, to be a bridge of Europe and Asia or being an Asian. Wala silang klaro diyan. There has always been an ambivalent view. Sometimes they say that they are part of Asia, sometimes they say that they are the bridge of Asia to Europe.”

As the name declares, ASEAN is an organization of countries in South East Asia. Mongolia and Turkey are not in South East Asia. Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south. Turkey straddles in Western Asia and Southeastern Europe.

VERA Files asked former Foreign affairs undersecretary Lauro Baja Jr his reaction to Duterte’s willingness to sponsor Mongolia and Turkey to be members of Asean. His comment:

Former Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja, Jr.

President Duterte said that out of five remarks he utter, three of them are jokes. This idea of Turkey and Mongolia into Asean may be one of them. I don’t know who initiated the idea or whether there were serious discussion or only banters which happen in bilaterals.

“Asean should be consulted on matters like this. I don’t think they were because they are silent in the idea so far. Turkey and Mongolia are not in the geographical concept of Asean to qualify for membership. They may not have sufficient substantive relationships with Asean to be considered dialogue partners or even sectoral partners.

“East Timor and Papua have pending applications for Asean membership but they still remain observers only. Sri Lanka has also applied years earlier. Incidentally Mongolia is member of the ASEAN Regional Forum*.

“There are other matters more important in which the Philippines can take leadership roles as chair of the golden anniversary of Asean. Let us stop this joke about Turkey and Mongolia “joining” Asean.”

*The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) a regional security cooperation and dialogue platform. It has 27 members who include the 10 ASEAN member states (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam), the 10 ASEAN dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States), ASEAN observer (Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste,), as well as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.