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THE WEEK AHEAD

KUALA LUMPUR : Breaking the Bloc

July 16, 1991

Foreign ministers of the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations will begin a three-day meeting Friday with representatives of the Soviet Union and China taking part in discussions for the first time.

Founded 24 years ago as an anti-Communist bloc, ASEAN has seen its unity challenged by disagreements over Cambodia and Vietnam. At the urging of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, the group is opening a dialogue with Moscow and Beijing in an effort to lessen the region's dependence on the United States and Japan. The ministers are also slated to discuss a controversial proposal to set up an East Asian consultative group that has been opposed by the United States because it excludes Washington.

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