One issue that apparently popped up along the sidelines of President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent trip to China was the possible addition to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of two countries that aren’t from the region.
Duterte said he spoke with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Mongolian Prime Minister Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat, who both expressed interest in joining the alliance.
“Since I am the (ASEAN) chair, they wanted me to sponsor their entry. I said, why not,” Duterte said, as he spoke to media upon his arrival in Davao City after about a 5-hour flight from Beijing.
Duterte said Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi seemed to find the plan odd.
“Sabi niya, ‘Have you considered the physical geography whether they are part of the ASEAN or not?” the president said, who in turn answered, “They are. I would say that they are.”
“Turkey seems to be ambivalent whether to be a bridge of Europe and Asia or being in Asia.
“Walang klaro diyan. There’s always been an ambivalent view.”
Whether Duterte meant a full membership or as a token ally, it wasn't clear.
If he pertained to the former, the two countries' location makes the proposition unconventional to say the least.
Turkey has an 8-hour time difference with the Philippines while Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, is a little more than 3,900 kilometers away from Manila.
According to Article 6 of the ASEAN Charter, one requirement for membership is a country's "location in the recognized geographical region of Southeast Asia."
But it seems Turkey has had this plan in mind for a while now.
In an article that appeared on the Asian Times website in August 2015, Erdogan said he "would like" for Turkey to be a member of the ASEAN.
“We aim to boost our relations with the region,” Erdogan said.
“Indonesia, due to the size of its economy and its leading position in ASEAN, has a special place in our eyes. We, Turkey, would like to be a member of ASEAN, not a dialogue partner. I would like to express that we are ready for this.”