Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is confident the ASEAN Community will be established by the end of this year, but added the quality of ASEAN integration will depend on how it resolves outstanding issues, including the territorial dispute in East Sea.

The PM was quoted by Singaporean press as saying that the dispute in East Sea, while directly affecting four of the ASEAN countries, indirectly affects the entire bloc, because it is a security issue in the middle of Southeast Asia.

He stressed ASEAN’s stand is that ASEAN should be negotiating a Code of Conduct (COC), adding “we are in the process of doing this”.

The PM added if the dispute is not resolved peacefully and in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of Sea (UNCLOS), Singapore will be affected.

Relating to the group’s formation process, the PM expressed hope that the bloc will meet the target on time but the quality will depend on the 10 country members’ efforts.

He highlighted that the formation of the AEC will be “a very big step”, but beyond that ASEAN needs to think about next steps in regional integration and cooperation.-VNA