Việt Nam called for ASEAN unity, centrality in face of 'increasingly fierce and profound' strategic competition

October 05, 2021 - 07:18

Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn said growing strategic competition between major powers has left huge implications to the region, and ASEAN needs to be watchful of developments and strengthen its unity and central role.

ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi and foreign ministers of ASEAN member states at the virtual meeting held on Monday. — VNA/VNS Photo Lâm Khánh

HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn said growing strategic competition between major powers has left huge implications on the region, and ASEAN needs to be watchful of developments and strengthen its unity and central role.

He made the statement as he was addressing the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) held virtually on Monday under the chair of Brunei, with issues like COVID-19 response, South China Sea, and Myanmar topping the agenda.

The Vietnamese foreign minister said he appreciated the efforts of Brunei as ASEAN chair this year in maintaining regional cooperation through these challenging times, reaffirming Việt Nam’s active participation and coordination to help successfully hold the upcoming ASEAN Summits slated to be held virtually on October 26-28.

Discussing the COVID-19 pandemic, Sơn said Việt Nam is among the three ASEAN countries trying to produce a locally developed vaccine, urging ASEAN to enhance its vaccine resilience through building up its capacity as a vaccine supplier for the region.

Việt Nam said it will coordinate with other countries to promote the early establishment and operation of the ASEAN Centre for Response to Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED). Sơn underlined that ASEAN needs to focus efforts on supporting groups of people and regions affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including sub-regions, as well as providing relief for specific sectors for them to quickly recover.

Việt Nam also used the occasion to announce its plans to hold an ASEAN forum on sub-regional cooperation for sustainable development and inclusive growth on November 30, 2021 in Hà Nội.

Minister Sơn said that increasingly fierce and profound strategic competition between world powers are “causing major implications” to the region, stressing that ASEAN needs to closely follow the developments, maintain the bloc’s unity, resilience, centrality and independence.

Việt Nam also suggested ASEAN maintain a ‘harmonious approach’ that both upholds its principled stances in matters affecting regional peace and security, while encouraging partners to actively participate in ASEAN-led mechanisms to help boost dialogues and confidence, and together address issues of mutual concerns.

Regarding the South China Sea (known in Việt Nam as the East Sea) issue, Minister Sơn reaffirmed the importance of promoting trust and confidence, exercising restraint, and peacefully settling disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

At the same time, ASEAN should continue to closely coordinate with China to ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the building of an effective, substantive Code of Conduct (COC) that is consistent with international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS, and one that is welcomed by the international community.

Talking about the situation in Myanmar, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei, ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy on Myanmar updated the participants on the progress of the mission.

ASEAN countries agreed to step up humanitarian support for Myanmar in the face of the severe impact of COVID-19 and welcomed the first humanitarian assistance trip including medical equipment worth US$1.1 million that was transferred to the Myanmar Red Cross Society on September 15; requested Myanmar to coordinate and facilitate the Special Envoy's activities, including supporting relevant parties in holding dialogues and find solutions to help stabilise the situation here.

The Vietnamese diplomat welcomed the first humanitarian assistance trip to Myanmar as an encouraging development to support the people in Myanmar. He also expressed support for the efforts of the ASEAN Chair as well as the ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy to Myanmar to soon implement the task and hope that Myanmar will create favourable conditions for the Special Envoy to successfully render their services.

The AMM also discussed the process of building the ASEAN Community, cooperation with partners, and discussed a number of regional and international issues. Maintaining ASEAN solidarity and unity is considered unanimously a key factor to ensure the success of the Community building process and promote ASEAN's central role in the region.

The meeting also discussed and agreed on the mode of cooperation between ASEAN and the United Kingdom, the newest ASEAN Dialogue Partner. Accordingly, the two sides will establish the mechanism of ASEAN-UK Joint Cooperation Committee, Senior Officials Meeting and Foreign Ministers Meeting, and Brunei will be the country to take the role of coordinating ASEAN-UK relations in 2021-24. — VNS