Burgeoning trade ties no guarantee of Asian peace: analysts

SINGAPORE, July 23, 2006 (AFP) – Burgeoning economic links through a web of free trade agreements (FTAs), financial cooperation and investments may reduce the risk of war in Asia but are no guarantee of peace, analysts say. Nationalist sentiments and historical animosities between major Asian countries could sideline economic considerations should tensions come to a boiling point, they say.

“It could be the case that regional integration will reduce the possibility of war — it will probably do so over the long term — but it doesn’t preclude it,” said Ross Babbage, a professor of defence and security issues at the Australian National University.

“For some countries, nationalist interests and emotions are likely far more powerful forces,” he told AFP.

Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hold their annual meetings in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from Monday.

That meeting will be followed by the ASEAN Regional Forum on security issues that will include the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the European Union, among others.

Although economic matters are not on the agenda, ASEAN hopes the growing trade links within and outside the group