LONDON — The inaugural ASEAN-UK Senior Officials’ Meeting (AUKSOM) was held in London on July 6 (local time). It was the first official engagement of both sides’ senior officials since ASEAN and the UK established a full dialogue partnership in August 2021.
Head of the UK's senior officials Jenny Bates reaffirmed the UK's commitments to strengthening partnership with the ASEAN and support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) as well as the central role of the association in the region.
The UK would support the ASEAN in building the ASEAN Community and coordinate with the association in dealing with global challenges, making positive contributions to peace, security, stability and development in the region, she said.
ASEAN senior officials lauded the important role of the UK as the leading partner of ASEAN in many fields. In the first three quarters of 2021, ASEAN-UK trade reached US$44.2 billion. Each year, the UK provides about $375 million of ODA to the region and about 200 Chevening scholarships to students from ASEAN countries. The UK has provided about $1.2 million to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, along with more than $6.34 million to enhance the medical capacity and reduce the impacts of the pandemic in the region.
ASEAN and the UK agreed to coordinate to ensure the sustainable and effective operation of cooperation mechanisms in the framework of the newly-established dialogue partnership, including the drafting of a plan of action for the 2022-2027 period.
They agreed to continue to prioritise the control of the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery while promoting trade and investment cooperation, chain supply connectivity as well as partnership in education, training, culture, art, tourism, and youth and student exchanges.
ASEAN proposed that the UK continue to help the region enhance medical capacity and ensure a timely and sufficient supply of vaccines. The UK pledged to strengthen cooperation with the ASEAN in science and technology, innovation, digital transformation, energy transformation, environmental protection, climate change response, and green and sustainable development.
The two sides expressed concern over the complicated situation in the region and the world and agreed to make efforts to ensure peace, security and stability in the region, building a favourable environment for cooperation and development. The UK affirmed its support for ASEAN's stance on the East Sea, including efforts to build a substantive, effective and efficient Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) following international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The UK and ASEAN will promote dialogue and reconciliation, and help Myanmar soon stabilise the situation through consultation and dialogue.
Addressing the event, Ambassador Vũ Hồ, the Acting Head of Senior Officials for ASEAN Việt Nam, suggested that the UK and ASEAN partners take a comprehensive approach to political-security issues in the region.
ASEAN expected the UK, as a new dialogue partner, to work together with ASEAN to build a culture of dialogue and uphold the cooperative spirit based on the rule of law, he said.
Ambassador Hồ held that the harmonious and sustainable development of the ASEAN sub-regions, including the Mekong sub-region, was an integral part of building comprehensive security in Southeast Asia. ASEAN hoped that the UK would pay attention to and strengthen cooperation with ASEAN in contents related to sub-regional development, especially issues such as sustainable water management, environmental protection, disaster management and climate change, he stated.
Regarding the East Sea issue, the Vietnamese representative underlined that turning the East Sea into a sea of peace, stability and cooperation was the duty of all countries inside and outside the region. To this end, respecting international law and UNCLOS 1982, ensuring security, safety, freedom of navigation and aviation, and ensuring a sustainable marine environment must be the basis for all activities in the East Sea, he stressed.
The ambassador said that ASEAN and China were making efforts in building an effective and efficient COC following international law and UNCLOS 1982, and hoped for support from partners, including the UK, for these efforts. VNS