Southeast Asia faces "very real" threats from the Islamic State (IS) group despite their defeat in the Middle East, as well as cyberattacks, Singapore's prime minister warned yesterday at a regional summit.
Parts of the 10-country region have long struggled with Islamic militancy and the emergence of IS has served as a new rallying point for radicals and re-energised extremist groups.
A deadly gun and suicide-bombing attack in the Indonesian capital Jakarta in 2016 was the first IS-claimed assault in the region, while the Philippine city of Marawi was overrun last year by fighters loyal to the jihadists, triggering a months-long battle that killed hundreds.
Fears are also growing that Southeast Asia, which is home to booming economies where a growing number of people are adopting digital technology in their everyday lives, could be increasingly targeted by cyberattackers.
Opening the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that IS continues to threaten the region, home to about 650 million people, despite their military defeat in Iraq and Syria.
He also warned the move towards digitalisation has made countries more vulnerable to cyberattacks.
"Southeast Asia is at peace, but these threats are very real," he said.
The leaders at a working dinner yesterday ahead of their formal summit agreed to increase coordination to shield countries from cyberattacks.
In a bid to give teeth to the fight against terrorism and other transnational crimes, the leaders agreed for their officials to start talks on an Asean-wide extradition treaty.
In a final statement, the leaders are expected to fight a "rising tide of protectionism" and intensify efforts to conclude talks for a massive 16-nation free trade zone that would include China and India, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.