Leaders from the 10 South East Asian nations meeting in Bali have signed economic and security treaties with China, India and Japan.
China wants to forge closer ties with Asean countries
A day after agreeing to closer economic ties themselves, the member nations of Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) turned their attention on Wednesday to securing pacts with their large regional neighbours.
China and India signed a security deal with Asean, while Japan said it would reduce trade barriers.
The agreements came on the second and final day of the Asean summit in Bali, which has been overshadowed by Burma and its military government's continued detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The security document signed by China and India, known as the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, renounces the threat or use of force to settle disputes.
After both countries had signed the agreement, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said, "We (now) have almost three billion people grouped under the same rules of good conduct."
He said he hoped Japan and South Korea would also soon sign the treaty, which "will certainly help to develop not only peace and stability, but prosperity in the region".
Japan did sign one agreement on Wednesday - pledging to reduce tariff
and non-tariff barriers with Asean members.
Japan has traditionally been South East Asia's largest trading partner and investor, with trade to and from Japan amounting to $99.2bn in 2001.
China and Asean have also agreed to work faster toward a mutual trade agreement, which will create the world's most populous market, with 1.7 billion consumers.
On Tuesday, Asean leaders signed a new declaration themselves - known as the Bali Concord II - in which they agreed to pursue closer economic integration by 2020.
The document also set out plans for better co-operation on security and social issues.
Ahead of the Asean summit, there was speculation that the new Burmese Prime Minister Khin Nyunt would be in for a hard time from other Asean members.
The nation's ruling junta has refused to release Aung San Suu Kyi despite continued international condemnation.
On Wednesday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Blas Ople said Asean had not been tough enough on Burma's leadership, a call which was echoed by Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
Asean member countries
"Japan wants to see democracy restored in Myanmar and Asean has
a role to play in this aspect," Mr Koizumi was quoted as saying.
Despite increasing calls for Asean to take more direct action against Burma - one of its members - the group has so far refrained from making a formal statement on Aung San Suu Kyi's detention during the summit.
Negotiations may well be going on behind the scenes, but the only formal reference to Burma was a statement on Tuesday afternoon by the host, Indonesia, which welcomed the "recent positive developments" regarding Burma's planned "roadmap to democracy".
"The Asean leaders have wimped out as far as Burma is
concerned," said Debbie Stothard, spokeswoman for the Alternative Asean Network.