HANOI – Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed to promote their cooperation in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and prepare a post-pandemic recovery plan.
They made the statement at the 53rd Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-53), which is held online from Wednesday to Saturday, due to the health crisis.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, the Asean would actively strengthen cooperation, maintaining a community-building momentum, as well as effectively respond to the pandemic, they said.
Given the increasing upheavals in the world, the Asean reaffirmed its strong commitment to maintaining a Southeast Asia region of peace, stability, security, and neutrality, in which international law is highly respected.
The Asean foreign ministers also pledged to continue their efforts to implement initiatives and priorities approved upon the 2020 Asean chairmanship.
They also adopted the five-year work plan (2021-2025) of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and its priorities for 2021.
Regarding external relations, they unanimously recommended increasing the frequency of the Asean-Australia Summit from every two years to an annual event, granting development partnership status to Israel and France, and continuing to consider the proposals to become a full dialogue partner of the Asean.
The ministers also approved measures to improve the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) processes and working methods.
They agreed that Asean should uphold a persistent stance, which urges parties to continue to restrain, not militarize, and not to use or threaten the use of force.
All disputes should be settled peacefully, they said, underlining the need to uphold international law, especially the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Asean countries would continue to support Myanmar in resolving the humanitarian challenges related to Rakhine State, the ministers said.
The Asean nations reaffirmed their stance in favor of a peaceful and stable Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons, calling on involved parties to resume dialogue.
It was also agreed that the Asean should cooperate in a joint effort in dealing with non-traditional security challenges, such as terrorism, transnational crime, maritime security and safety, climate change, and epidemics.
In his welcoming remarks at the meeting’s opening ceremony, Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc called for solidarity among Asean members to deal with challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and a complicated geopolitical and economic environment.
Phúc suggested that Asean foreign ministers promote several priorities, including continuing to uphold the Asean’s solidarity and unity to successfully realize the blueprints for the Asean Community Vision 2025.
It was necessary to raise the effectiveness of the Asean Charter implementation and that of the Asean sectoral bodies.
This would enable countries to work out the Asean Vision beyond 2025.
Efforts should be invested to control Covid-19 and promote a sustained recovery, he said, proposing that the Covid-19 Response Fund should be well utilized and the Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies should be operationalized to raise Asean’s response capacity.
Phúc underscored the need to help people and businesses restore production and return to normal to speed up economic recovery.
Efforts should also be made to facilitate trade and investment, fix the disrupted supply chain, enhance connectivity, and provide mutual support to bridge the development gaps between the sub-regions in the Asean, including the Mekong, he said.
Phúc also noted the need to capitalize on Asean centrality in advancing dialogue, cooperation, and confidence building in the region.
“Cohesive and responsive, along with proactive and responsible, have become a brand of Asean, which enabled us to stand hand-in-hand in the face of immense challenges and keep forging ahead,” he said.
Addressing the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Phạm Bình Minh spoke highly of the Asean bloc, which is dynamic in action, flexible in response, and creative in cooperation.
Minh praised the Asean Community, saying that with the spirit of “from vision to action”, the Asean has gradually taken shape, laying the significant foundation for the building process.
“Entering its sixth decade, Asean is now speeding up its community building while maximizing its role and status in the region and actively contributing to the joint efforts for peace, stability, and development of the international community,” he added.
On the same day, Minh chaired the meetings of the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Commission and the 27th Asean Coordinating Council (ACC), and the Special Session of the ACC on sub-regional development.
The 21st Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers’ Meeting between foreign ministers of the Asean and their counterparts from China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan, and the 10th East Asia Summit were also held on Wednesday.
The Asean consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (VNS)