The United States and Russia will be the new members of the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum of native states of the region and their dialogue partners among major powers of the world.

This follows a decision taken by the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at their latest annual summit in Hanoi on Thursday.

Washington and Moscow will be invited to attend the annual meetings of the EAS from 2011.

Founded over four years ago, the EAS now has 16 members — all the 10 ASEAN countries, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.

The ASEAN leaders emphasised the need for “ensuring [the Association's] centrality” to an expanded EAS as well. Currently, the ASEAN Chair presides over the EAS meetings. As “a leaders-driven strategic forum,” the EAS functions as a key organisation for regional cooperation on a range of issues including security.

“An effective regional architecture [for cooperation] should be based on existing processes which are complementary to each other,” the ASEAN leaders decided. These processes include the ASEAN+3 forum, the +3 countries being China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, presiding over the latest ASEAN summit, said: “Along with the strategic partnerships with China and Japan, we [the Association] will also consider the elevation of the ASEAN-Republic of Korea relationship into a [similar] strategic partnership.”

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