The Southeast Asian bloc has established development partnerships with France and Italy while including Columbia and Cuba in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told a press conference on AMM 53 and related meetings that wrapped up in Hanoi on Saturday afternoon.
Regarding the U.K.’s proposal to become an ASEAN dialogue partner, Minh said the bloc acknowledged the country’s significant role both regionally and internationally and in the relationship between the U.K. and ASEAN member countries.
“ASEAN member countries are considering the U.K.’s proposal based on ASEAN regulations, as well as cooperation outcomes and commitments of countries in general that seek to become the bloc’s dialogue partners,” he added.
Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung, head of the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting Vietnam, had said last week that many countries have proposed setting up partnerships with ASEAN as the bloc’s role and position have advanced in recent times.
ASEAN currently has partner relationships with 16 countries and blocs; and has eight strategic partners – Australia, China, the E.U., India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.
The bloc has 10 members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Within the framework of AMM 53 and related meetings held September 9-12 via online conferences, ASEAN’s current partners continued supporting the central role of the bloc in shaping an open, inclusive, transparent and rules-based regional architecture.
ASEAN and its partners agreed to intensify the role and efficiency of ASEAN-chaired forums, including the East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+).
They reiterated commitments to multilateral cooperation and the framework of relations between countries on the basis of principles of international law, while stepping up fruitful cooperation in coping with emerging challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minh said that the topic of strategic competition among major countries has been discussed in ASEAN forums, including the EAS and the ARF.
The ministers affirmed their determination to maintain Southeast Asia as a region of peace, security, neutrality and stability while strengthening ASEAN’s central role, unity and resilience. They will also continue promoting trust building, mutual respect and the rule of law in line with the spirit of the Foreign Ministers’ Statement on the occasion of marking the 53rd founding anniversary of ASEAN on August 8, 2020.
The statement “demonstrates the central role of ASEAN and the bloc doesn’t want to be stuck in competition between countries, affecting the peace and stability of the region,” Minh emphasized.
Regarding initiatives proposed by China, including the linking of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 (MPAC) with Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative and on global security data, Deputy PM Minh said ASEAN is an open community and always welcomes partners’ initiatives that contribute to mutual development and build an environment of peace, stability and shared prosperity in the region.
All ASEAN members support the initiatives by China, and ministers have assigned relevant agencies of all sides to research in order to make appropriate proposals, Minh added.
South China Sea
Minh said the South China Sea issue has been mentioned in all ASEAN forums in the spirit of calling for parties to contribute to maintaining peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region.
ASEAN members have called for all parties to respect international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The South China Sea is known as the East Sea in Vietnam.
“For countries that are members of UNCLOS such as Vietnam, China and other ASEAN countries, compliance with the convention is as a matter of course,” Minh said, in response to questions on whether China was complying with UNCLOS.
Minh also said that at AMM 53, ASEAN has stressed the significance and interests of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the South China Sea, confirming they are the interests of all countries. “This stance has continued to receive the support of partner countries.”
He added that the participating ministers also agreed on the need to promote dialogue, enhance trust building, refrain from acts that would increase tensions and complicate the situation, avoid militarization and using or threatening to use force, and settle disputes through peaceful measures on the basis of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.
Minh noted that ministers expressed their hope for full and efficient implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and called for the early completion of a binding, effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in line with international law.
At the press conference, Minh said the ministers adopted 42 documents at the AMM 53 and related meetings, including the joint communique of AMM 53 and the ARF Hanoi Plan of Action II (2020-2025).
Notably, 10 initiatives raised by Vietnam were passed, including the Hanoi statement on the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the EAS and the organization of a meeting of the EAS expert group on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minh said that as the ASEAN Chair 2020, Vietnam is actively preparing for the 37th ASEAN Summit slated for November this year, hoping that countries would have achieved better control over the Covid-19 crisis by then.
Vietnam has reported 1,060 Covid-19 cases so far, of which 112 are active. It has confirmed 35 Covid-19 deaths. The country has recorded no new domestic transmissions for ten days.