What do you expect from the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in the current challenging context and its future development?
We expect many things from the 37th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Hà Nội. Among them, the mid-term review of implementation of the ASEAN Vision 2025, formulation of Hà Nội Declaration on the Post ASEAN Vision 2025, evaluation of ASEAN Charter, signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), review of progress on ASEAN Outlook on Indo Pacific, new signatories to Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and regional connectivity.
Most importantly, ASEAN leaders and East Asia Summit leaders will discuss about strategies on how to contain COVID-19 disease and how to cooperate among themselves.
Luckily, early this week there was a good news that pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech have developed a new vaccine, which can protect us almost 90 per cent from coronavirus. By next year, COVID-19 will be gone. ASEAN’s main focus will be on economic recovery. The leaders will come up with constructive plans about economic recovery.
They will discuss the most important issue of the South China Sea (SCS) and the rising tensions between China and the US. What ASEAN leaders wanted is to have a rules-based regional order in the SCS. All the disputes must be solved based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Negotiations have been going on Code of Conduct (CoC) between ASEAN and China. On this issue, Việt Nam, in cooperation with Indonesia, has made efforts to unify ASEAN member states to have a common stance that is to follow UNCLOS and the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling.
Việt Nam has chosen the theme “Cohesive and Responsive” for its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020. In your opinion, how has been the spirit materialised in practice?
The 37th ASEAN Summit and its related meetings come at a crucial time, especially at the peak of COVID-19 pandemic. We never faced this kind of situation. When Việt Nam took over ASEAN Chair from Thailand last year, people, including Vietnamese people, had many expectations. Việt Nam made all preparations to execute its plans. But COVID-19 pandemic made the situation very difficult.
In April 2020, Việt Nam took the lead to organise a ASEAN gathering to deal with COVID-19. It was a big success for Việt Nam’s ASEAN chairmanship. Throughout the year, all ASEAN meetings and summits were held virtually. Many of Việt Nam’s targets have been achieved so far.
The signing of RCEP will be an important achievement during Việt Nam’s chairmanship if it is signed this week.
Another important achievement of Việt Nam is maintaining ASEAN unity and solidarity. Việt Nam’s ASEAN Chair theme “Cohesive and Responsive” is relevant and timely.
How has Việt Nam performed as ASEAN Chair, especially in the challenging context of COVID-19 pandemic and amid growing tensions in the region?
In the beginning of the year, many scholars were pessimistic about Việt Nam’s Chairmanship due to COVID-19. They described 2020 as a Việt Nam’s lost year. But Việt Nam proved them all wrong. Despite of the challenges and problems from COVID-19, Việt Nam successfully led ASEAN throughout the year.
The best example came from Indonesia. The Cabinet Secretariat of the Indonesian government declared that Indonesia fully supports all initiatives of Việt Nam as ASEAN Chair.
Many countries, including the US, Japan, India and Australia have praised Việt Nam’s ASEAN Chairmanship.
Việt Nam successfully united all ASEAN countries on the issues of rules-based order in the South China Sea and legally binding Code of Conduct in accordance with UNCLOS with China.
Việt Nam’s ASEAN leadership has navigated the troubled waters and maintained ASEAN unity, solidarity, cohesiveness, neutrality, peace and security. Some scholars even suggested that Việt Nam should become ASEAN Chair for one more year.
Việt Nam joined ASEAN in 1995. This year it is celebrating 25 years of its membership in ASEAN. Việt Nam has benefited a lot and now it has emerged as a new rising star of Southeast Asia. Việt Nam is committed to ASEAN and its development and unity. In order to maintain ASEAN unity on the issue of SCS and a threat from China, Việt Nam is closely working with Indonesia, the de facto leader of ASEAN, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Now people are calling Việt Nam is the second de facto leader of ASEAN. VNS