|Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.— Photo VGP
HA NOI (VNS) — Solidarity was the key to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) beating poverty and distance to become a dynamic united bloc, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh believes.
"The leaping development of ASEAN is the result of solidarity and unceasing efforts to build a community on the three pillars of security, economics and culture," Minh has written in an article to mark ASEAN Day, which falls on August 8.
The Deputy PM said the Bangkok Declaration that marked the birth of ASEAN in 1967 had clearly specified the goal of making joint efforts and sacrifices to ensure the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.
Since then, ASEAN had adopted many important documents, such as the Declaration of ASEAN Concord (1976), the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation (TAC-1976), the South East Asia Nuclear Weapons-free Zone Treaty (SANWFZ-1995), the Declaration on Conduct of Parties on the East Sea (DOC-2002) and the ASEAN Charter (2008).
These have become standards for relations between ASEAN member countries as well as between ASEAN and its outside partners.
ASEAN has attracted many partners, including the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India and the European Union.
It continues to enhance ties through mechanisms initiated and led by ASEAN, including ASEAN+1, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM+).
On the East Sea issue, ASEAN had also demonstrated its responsibility in ensuring peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the region.
When China illegally installed an oil rig in violation of Viet Nam's continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, threatening security and navigation safety in the East Sea, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting on May 10 this year strongly reiterated respect for international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Deputy PM said that the issuing of a statement on the East Sea issue demonstrated ASEAN's concern over the tense developments. He said the statement confirmed the bloc's responsibility for peace and stability in the region as well as its solidarity.
Minh also said that ASEAN worked as an important driving force for regional economic-trade links. Less than a decade after the establishment of the ASEAN Free Trade Zone (AFTA) in 1992, regional economic connectivity expanded to cover most major economic sectors, from trading in goods to trading in services and investment.
Minh said that when the financial crisis enveloped Asia in 1997-98, many people forecast that ASEAN would become protectionist. On the contrary, ASEAN breathed new life into economic and trade links in East Asia with the formation of a network of Free Trade Zones with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
In addition, ASEAN pushed a range of economic-trade programmes with the US, Canada, the EU and Russia. Amid the gloomy global economic picture, ASEAN emerged as a bright spot with an average growth of 5-6 per cent even during the most difficult time of 2011-12.
Minh said that socio-cultural ties were another pillar of the ASEAN community. At the same time, unity in diversity was also a unique feature of the bloc.
Looking back at Viet Nam's 19-year ASEAN membership, Minh said the nation had built prestige as an active and responsible member. "A strong and closely-knit ASEAN community is a priority for Viet Nam," Minh said.
The Deputy PM also outlined the tasks that Viet Nam and other ASEAN nations would pursue. First, the bloc would help build the ASEAN Community.
Secondly, ASEAN's central role would be strengthened. According to Minh, ASEAN would continue to uphold its charter, the TAC, SEANFWZ and DOC (please spell out) and use them to build a common code of conduct.
At the same time, the bloc would shore up its internal economic strength to serve as a basis for enhancing internal and external economic links.
Thirdly, mechanisms for co-operation with partners would be strengthened to respond to security challenges, particularly those related to territorial and sea and island disputes, natural calamities, diseases and the environment.
Fourthly, a vision for the ASEAN Community beyond 2015 would be built based on the accomplishments made over the past five decades.
Viet Nam's future would continue to bind with ASEAN on the road towards regional connectivity and integration for peace, security, stability and prosperity for 600 million people in the bloc, the Deputy PM said. — VNS