KUALA LUMPUR - ASEAN needs to deal with the "insidious" threat of extremism and radicalism to ensure peace and stability for the region to prosper, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The lack of peace and stability can undermine the region, the Prime Minister added during a question and answer session at the launching of the inaugural ASEAN Capital Market CEO Summit here yesterday.
He cited the proposed creation of the Bangsamoro autonomous entity within the Philippines, restive southern Thailand and the spillover effect of tensions in Myanmar as possible sources of issues which ASEAN needed to resolve collectively.
He said that maritime border disputes must also be resolved in a responsible and mature manner to avoid negative perceptions that ASEAN was having internal problems.
Najib, who answered several questions posed by former ASEAN secretary-general Dr Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand, reiterated that ASEAN must engage in cooperative relationships with both the United States and China.
"ASEAN shouldn't be asked to choose between the United States and China.
"We need both powers to create a productive and cooperative role in this part of the world to ensure peace and stability," he added.
Asked by Dr Surin if he felt pressure with Malaysia assuming the ASEAN chairmanship while "facing domestic challenges and the trauma of the MH370 and MH17 tragedies" last year, Najib said that pressure could be good.
"It's good that one should feel a little bit of pressure because only then can one strive to meet expectations," he said, quipping: "I still sleep well at night."
Earlier in his keynote address, Najib said the establishment of ASEAN as a single market and production base would unlock the grouping's potential to be on par with the world's largest economies.
With more than 620 million people, he noted, ASEAN was home to 10 per cent of the world's population, making it the third largest single market in the world, surpassing the United States and the European Union and behind only China and India.
He added that Malaysia, as the chairman for the 26th ASEAN Summit in April, would recommend a more enhanced ASEAN secretariat to ensure member states work together to craft and implement the post-2015 agenda.
Najib later met ASEAN 100 millennial young executives behind closed doors to talk on education and employment.