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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Asean and the West meet in Hanoi

Foreign ministers from the Asean grouping of South East Asian nations are meeting their counterparts from the big industrial powers in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, to discuss security matters.

Topics on the agenda include: tensions on the divided Korean peninsula; the political crisis in Indonesia; and the dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which are claimed by several participants.

The meeting brings together representatives from 10 Asean countries, the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union, plus other states in the Asia-Pacific region.

It will be the first trip back to Vietnam for the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, since his war-time service there.

In a newspaper interview coinciding with the meeting, the American defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said it was important that the United States maintain a strong military presence in Asia to deter any future threats from China.

He told the Washington Times that China faced an uncertain and unstable future, trying to balance economic reform with a political dictatorship.

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